May 30, 2012 · Posted in: General
CJs, former and acting: Corona and Carpio during ‘happier’ times
IN A SUDDEN TURNAROUND, the Supreme Court en banc decided to approve the release to the public of the statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) of all judges and justices all over the country, including the SALNs of the members of the Supreme Court.
The ruling was handed down after an en banc meeting called today by acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio. The decision comes a day after impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona was found guilty by the senate sitting as an impeachment court for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of the public trust for failing to divulge all his assets in his SALN.
The ruling is also a sudden reversal by the Supreme Court of its previous rulings barring the release of SALNs of any court official or employee to the public, supposedly to prevent court officials from being harassed or intimidated by litigants.
“The en banc approved in principle the release of the 2011 SALNs (full) of all the judges and justices in the judiciary,” said acting Supreme Court spokesman Atty. Gelo Guerra.
Guerra said the court also set a special meeting on June 13 in order to hammer out the guidelines for the release of the SALNs. “It is still being drafted, it is still being discussed,” Guerra told the PCIJ. “Hopefully, it (guidelines) will be released by June 13.”
As such, there will be no releases of the SALNs of the justices or judges until the guidelines have been finalized, Guerra said.
In addition, Guerra stressed that the order only covers the SALNs of justices and judges for the year 2011. It does not cover SALNs submitted in previous years.
Guerra refused to comment when asked what made the Supreme Court reverse its earlier rulings barring the release of SALNs from the judiciary to the public. She however confirmed that today’s decision was a reversal of previous rulings made by the court. “This supercedes the previous rulings, because this is the latest,” she said.
Since the early 1990s. the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism had been trying to secure the SALNs of members of the judiciary. However, the Supreme Court had consistently thrown legal roadblocks against petitions for the SALNs of members of the judiciary, to the point of releasing court resolutions that prohibited the disclosure of their assets.
In 1992, the Supreme Court under then Chief Justice Andres Narvasa released a resolution effectively exempting judicial personnel from complains with the disclosure of their assets to the public. Repeated and yearly requests by the PCIJ to break through the wall built by the Supreme Court around itself had come to naught.
In a “media backgrounder” released by the Supreme Court in 2006 to justify its refusal to release SALNs, the high tribunal argued that it needed to keep the SALNs secret in order to protect the independence of the justices and judges, and to shield them from retaliation from litigants.
In 2009, the tribunal, under pressure from media organizations like the PCIJ, formed a special committee to study the PCIJ’s requests for the release of the SALN. The committee, then headed by Associate Justice Minita Chico-Nazario, has not released its findings or report to the public.
Read the story of the long hard road to the Supreme Court’s SALNs here.