President Rodrigo Duterte‘s order for a wide-scale corruption probe on the entire government bureaucracy renewed calls for the Palace to release his wealth declaration document, which the Ombudsman has recently restricted public access from.
In his televised address aired Tuesday, October 27, Duterte ranted against the worsening corruption within the government and promised to focus his remaining years as president to solve this national concern.
“Alam mo hanggang ngayon corruption pa rin ang problema. I have made a pledge if I remember two sessions, three sessions ago, that I will concentrate the last remaining years of my term fighting corruption kasi hanggang ngayon hindi humihina, lumalakas pa lalo,” he said.
He also directed the Department of Justice to look into all allegations of corruption involving all government agencies, particularly the state insurer and the Department of Public Works and Highways.
“I have said enough. Let me just read for everybody. I hope that all government workers, officials are listening. This is my…a memorandum from me, the President, to Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra, Department of Justice. Ang subject is: ‘Investigation of allegations of corruption in the entire government.’ Lahat,” Duterte said.
The DOJ also has the authority to “choose” which allegation to investigate in terms of the gravity and impact on public service.
The agency may also create as many “panels” and direct other related government offices it deems necessary in its probe and prosecution of officials and employees involved in corruption anomalies.
This directive will be in effect until June 30, 2022 or when Duterte’s term ends.
It was last August when Duterte first promised to rid the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation of corruption for his last two years in presidency.
Over the weekend, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission informed The STAR that it will identify lawmakers allegedly involved in anomalies in the DPWH to Duterte.
Calls for SALN release
While administration supporters welcomed this pronouncement, some Filipinos perceived this as a broken record and argued that the investigation should start from the president himself, citing the release of his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth (SALN).
The public official’s SALN submission is required by law under Article XI Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution and Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6713, the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.”
The word “SALN” immediately reached the trending list on Twitter briefly in the morning as critics noted on his non-disclosure of wealth to the public.
Your ombudsman restricts people's access to officials' SALN including yours. Is that to hide your dishonesty?! If you are true to your words against corruption, we demand your full disclosure on your SALN. Walk the talk… https://t.co/DNubltO9I7
— ꫀ᥊ꫀᨶꪊᡶỉꪜꫀ ᡶỉꪑꪊꪖꪗ (@brianjoseph1006) October 27, 2020
Release the SALN and then we can talk about corruption. https://t.co/Iu2DNXXaQp
— Vice Sobreviñas (@yourserViiiiice) October 27, 2020
In a report on October 18, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism bared that the chief executive released his SALNs until 2017, contrary to his predecessors.
PCIJ also stated that the Office of the Ombudsman stalled and ignored their requests for Duterte’s SALNs in 2018 and 2019.
This decision came after Duterte reportedly got angry over the organization’s story on his increased wealth from less than P1 million in 1998 to nearly P29 million in 2017.
“When we asked for the president’s 2018 SALN the following month, the Office of the Ombudsman stalled. Our request for the 2019 filing in August 2020 was also ignored until the Ombudsman released its circular a month later,” PCIJ said.
In a new tweet, the non-profit media group once again sought for the document’s release through the hashtag #ShowUsYourSALN.
— PCIJ (@PCIJdotOrg) October 27, 2020
Ombudsman’s new rule
When asked about this during a press briefing last week, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that they will leave it up to Ombudsman Samuel Martires‘ office.
Given that the Office of the Ombudsman holds the government’s SALNs, Martires issued a new memorandum last September that citizens can only access them by fulfilling certain conditions.
These include a request upon lawful order of the court in relation to a pending case and the requestor is a duly authorized representative of the official or employee.
This ran counter to Section 8 of RA 6713, which states:
“Any person requesting a copy of a statement shall be required to pay a reasonable fee to cover the cost of reproduction and mailing of such statement, as well as the cost of certification.”