THE House of Representatives has made it clear public access to the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SAL) of lawmakers and government officials is now easier.
House Majority Leader Fred Castro made this clarification as he assured the public, especially media, that they can easily access copies of the SALN.
Castro belied claims by the opposition that adoption of HR 2467 was railroaded, pointing out that proper legislative processes, including committee deliberation, were observed.
Earlier, the House of Representatives approved on second reading House Resolution 2467 adopting the proposed rules of procedure in the filing, review and disclosure or and access to the SALNs of members, officials and employees of the House.
Castro assured media that release of copies of SALN summary will be faster compared to previous years, noting that HR 2467 contains a provision for a self-imposed deadline in the distribution of the summary.
“Within 20 days after the last day of filing of SALN, the media will have to be given copies of the summary,” Castro said.
“HR 2467 remains faithful to the principle of transparency. Accountability will have to be guaranteed by both the public and the SALN filers,” he added.
Castro stressed that under HR 2467, the rights of parties requesting SALN copies and those of congressmen and House personnel will be protected.
“The days of tedious and expensive way of seeking copies of SALN of lawmakers are over. Requesting parties no longer have to ask the courts to issue a subpoena duces tecum, they merely have to ask and follow simple procedure provided under HR 2467,” he explained.
On the other hand the bill provides that House members may decide to approve or reject the request for the release of his or her SALN.
Once a request is turned down by the concerned House member or official, the Review and Compliance Committee (RCC) will subject the application to vetting and make its recommendation to the plenary, the bill added.
Under Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employes, the Senate and the Lower House are mandated to form an RCC to ensure compliance to procedures relating to the filing of SALN.
The law also provides the imposition of fees to applicants requesting for SALN copies.
According to Castro, the committee or the plenary has the authority to overrule the decision of a non-cooperative solon but not those who are willing to share their SALN.
Castro said a number of congressmen and even Lower House personnel have complained of becoming the subject of a fishing expedition for harassment cases, blackmail and character assassination.
““While it is true that we have the obligation to file SALN and observe transparency, we also have to impose responsibility to all so that the rights, welfare and safety of everybody concerned is protected,” he said.
“The process we will follow is similar to what the Supreme Court observes with regards to SALN,” he added.
He also stresssed that concerned agencies such as the Civil Service Commission have been consulted prior to the adoption of HR 2467. The Committee on Justice has strongly endorsed the measure.