Still a House of secrets
By Karol Anne M. Ilagan
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
IT impeached and prosecuted then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona for his failure to declare full and truthful details of his wealth in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN). Yet, three months after Corona was convicted, the House of Representatives has yet to let the public fully access the SALNs of all its members.
As of press time, all requests from citizens, including PCIJ’s, have yet to be acted upon pending the release of rules and procedures that a special committee was tasked to formulate. This is even though the House in previous Congresses had adopted a mechanism for the public to access the SALNs.
On June 18, 2012, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. issued Special Order 05-12 that created a committee that would establish the review and compliance procedures relating to the SALNs of members, officials, employees, and staff of the House of Representatives, including public access to such documents.
In the meantime, Belmonte told reporters, any request for SALNs should be addressed to House members individually. Which is just as well since up to now, the committee has yet to finalize and release such procedures. According to a staff employee of Bohol Rep. Erico Aumentado, the committee conducted its first meeting just recently – early this month.
Belmonte assigned Aumentado as the committee’s chairman, and Batangas Rep. Tomas Apacible, Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino, and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez as members.
The first meeting was confirmed by a staff employee at the Records Management Service whose head, Ricardo Bering, sits in the committee secretariat. According to a Records Management employee, the “policies” have already been drafted by the committee members, but these are still subject to amendments. Neither the Records employee nor the Aumentado staff member has any idea about the Committee’s timetable.
The Committee is tasked to perform three functions:
(1) To determine whether said SALNs were submitted on time and in the complete and proper form, and if not, to inform and direct the reporting individual to take the necessary corrective action;
(2) To render any opinion interpreting the above Act (Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees), in writing, to persons, subject in each instance to the approval by an affirmative vote of the majority of the House of Representatives; and
(3) To formulate such Rules and Procedures for public access to copies of SALNs of members, officials, employees, and staff of the House of Representatives, subject to the approval of the House of Representatives.
Prior to the Committee’s creation, the PCIJ’s requests for SALNs remained pending before the Office of the Secretary General because the House was still revising its procedures for SALN release. As late as last March, the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was supposedly being drafted at the Planning and Management Information Service, after which it would be referred to the Legal Affairs Department.
PCIJ itself is currently awaiting the approval of three requests it filed before the Office of the Secretary General, which is mandated by law as custodian of the House SALNs to make the documents available to the public:
- Feb. 16, 2012 request for the 2010 SALNs & PDS/CV of members of the prosecution panel;
- Feb. 16, 2012 request for the 2010 SALNs & PDS/CV of the rest of the members of the House; and
- Jun. 5, 2012 request for the 2011 SALN of all 15th Congress members.
The PCIJ has also tried to secure SALNs from congressmen individually, a move it made prior to Belmonte’s “advice” to reporters seeking SALNs from the House – and after the Secretary General’s Office had denied the Center’s previous requests. With the help of interns, PCIJ wrote to 279 members of Congress and requested a copy of their SALN upon assumption and as of December 2010. PCIJ failed to send letters of request to six representatives: Maria Isabelle ‘Beng’ G. Climaco (Zamboanga City), Benjo A. Benaldo (Cagayan de Oro City), Neptali M. Gonzales II (Mandaluyong City), Alejandro Y. Mirasol (Negros Occidental), Antonio A. del Rosario (Capiz), and Fernando V. Gonzalez (Albay).
Of PCIJ’s 279 requests to individual House members, just 12 percent or 34 lawmakers agreed to release their SALNs.
The majority of 245 other requests were either denied or referred to the Office of the Secretary General or the Records Office, or altogether failed to elicit any response within 15 working days.
Of the 34 legislators who approved PCIJ’s request, 25 gave complete documents or both their SALNs as of July 2010 and December 2010:
- Aumentado, Erico B. (Bohol)
- Avance-Fuentes, Daisy (South Cotabato)
- Bag-ao, Kaka J. (PL Akbayan)
- Bello, Walden F. (PL Akbayan)
- Bondoc, Anna York P. (Pampanga)
- Brawner Baguilat, Teddy Jr. (Ifugao)
- Casiño, Teddy A. (PL Bayan Muna)
- Castelo, Winston (Quezon City)
- Colmenares, Neri J. (PL Bayan Muna)
- De Jesus, Emmi A. (PL Gabriela)
- Garin, Janette L. (Iloilo)
- Hataman-Salliman, Jim S. (Basilan)
- Herrera-Dy, Bernadette R. (PL Bagong Henerasyon)
- Ilagan, Luzviminda C. (PL Gabriela)
- Mariano, Rafael V. (PL Anakpawis)
- Lazatin, Carmelo F. (Pampanga)
- Padilla, Carlos M. (Nueva Vizcaya)
- Palmones, Angelo B. (PL Agham)
- Quimbo, Romero Federico ‘Miro’ S. (Marikina)
- Quisumbing, Gabriel R. (Cebu)
- Ramos, Deogracias Jr. B. (Sorsogon)
- Tañada, Lorenzo III R. (Quezon)
- Tinio, Antonio L. (PL ACT Teachers)
- Valencia, Rodolfo G. (Oriental Mindoro)
- Zubiri, Jose III F. (Bukidnon)
The remaining nine who approved PCIJ requests gave incomplete SALNs, i.e. released either the July 2010 or December 2010 SALN, or gave a copy of their December 2011 SALN, which had already been released when the PCIJ’s individual requests were filed:
- Ferriol, Abigail Faye C. (PL Kalinga)
- Gatchalian, Rex (Valenzuela)
- Lacson-Noel, Josephine Veronique R. (Malabon City)
- Lico, Isidro Q. (PL Ating Koop)
- Marañon, Alfredo III D. (Negros Occidental)
- Palatino, Raymond V. (PL Kabataan)
- Pichay, Philip A. (Surigao del Sur)
- Roman, Herminia B. (Bataan)
- Tiangco, Tobias M. (Navotas City)
— PCIJ, August 2012