Feb. 2, 2019
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines protests House Resolution 2467, which will require majority consent before lawmakers’ statements of assets, liabilities and net worth can be accessed.
We find it ironic that a document meant to help advance transparency in government is now being subjected to so many rules and restrictions by the very people entrusted to craft the laws of the land.
Even before heading to plenary for the majority approval or disapproval, a request for SALN – which, by the way, will now cost P300, or up to P90,000 for all members of the House – needs to be vetted by a a committee on review and compliance.
And then there are still forms to be filled up like a sworn undertaking and declaration listing the specific manner in which information from a SALN may or may not be used. Members of media, on the other hand, must also submit proof under oath of media affiliation and a certification of the accreditation of the media organization, which essentially discriminates against freelance journalists.
Even when a request for SALN is granted, it is likely to be heavily redacted. Aside from understandable omissions such as the address of the lawmaker and the names of unmarried and minor aged children and household members, other items that may be blacked out include businesses, financial interests, and relatives in government, information that could prove crucial in weeding out conflicts of interest and other anomalies.
Mind you, SALNs are public documents and should be accessible to everyone.
House Resolution 2467 and Congress’ continued failure to pass the Freedom of Information Bill gives us reason to suspect this legislature intends to reverse whatever advances in honest and transparent governance have been made through the years.
Government officials are fond of saying that those who have nothing to hide should not fear disclosure nor scrutiny. Why then should members of the House fear these now?