A Filipino cartoonist-satirist urged President Rodrigo Duterte to release his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) after Duterte said he will audit the whole government if he is elected vice president next year.
The president made the statement in a taped public address aired last August 26 as he questioned who examines the finances of the Commission on Audit (COA).
“Sinong nag-o-audit ng COA? May I ask that question? [S]omebody should do it. I will do that if I become vice president. Ako na lang din ang mag-audit sa lahat ng gobyerno. Lahat. Pati ‘yung akin. Mag-umpisa ako sa akin,” Duterte said.
In his illustration, “Cartoonist Zach” drew Duterte with plenty of money in his pockets and a speech bubble saying “I will audit all government offices.”
He also included a man rebutting with the phrase “SALNa all,” implying that Duterte should first disclose his wealth declaration document, which has remained a secret for three years.
His drawing was praised by other social media users who pointed out that auditing state agencies is not among a vice president’s tasks.
“Defeats the purpose of an audit for it to be done by the same people handling the government money. Isn’t it,” a Facebook user said.
“Like saying he will investigate his own self,” another user shared.
“SALN muna bago audit ng iba, sarili muna,” a Reddit user commented.
Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo stressed that COA is a constitutional body and its functions cannot be influenced by other branches of the government.
“Ang mandato ng VP, succession lang. Creative lang kami kaya meron kaming anti-poverty program, meron kaming programa ngayong COVID, pero ‘yung pag-audit nakalagay ‘yan sa isang constitutional body para may independence. Hindi napapakialaman ng ibang branches ng government,” Robredo said during her weekly radio show on Sunday.
Duterte had blasted state auditors for their report that cited deficiencies in the Department of Health’s handling of P67.3 billion COVID-19 response funds.
The president also asked COA to stop flagging government transactions and refrain from publishing its reports as it would taint agencies with corruption.
Under the 1987 Constitution, COA has the “power, authority, and duty to examine, audit, and settle all accounts pertaining to the revenue and receipts of, and expenditures or uses of funds and property, owned or held in trust by, or pertaining to, the government, or any of its subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters, and on a post-audit basis.”
Robredo called on the president to release his SALN to set an example and prove that he is committed to ending corruption in government.
“‘Yung SALN, isa ‘yun sa isang [paraan] para ipakita mo na bukas, bukas ‘yung lahat ng information, para sa akin, pagpapakita na walang korapsyon,” she said.
The Palace on Monday said the release of Duterte’s SALN is up to the Office of the Ombudsman.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the president “has complied with his constitutional duty to submit or file his SALN.”
“Interested parties may therefore wish to write a formal communication to the Office of the Ombudsman, which has copies of SALNs of all public officials, asking for a copy of the said document,” Roque said.
Duterte’s last publicly accessible SALN was in 2017, in which he declared a net worth of P28.5 million, while Robredo has been releasing her SALN annually since 2016.
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.”
In September 2020, the Office of the Ombudsman issued a memorandum circular saying it would no longer grant public access to SALNs without the concerned officials’ consent.