THREE MONTHS after Renato C. Corona was impeached as chief justice for his failure to declare and disclose the full and true details of his wealth, the justices of the Supreme Court remain unrepentant over their opaque ways of old.
Indeed, they have yet to show proof that transparency in regard to their Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) has now become both principle and practice of the highest tribunal of the land.
Until last week, the personnel in charge of receiving requests for SALNs in the Office of the Clerk of Court say the Court has not yet released even a single SALN to any one of the 64 parties – media agencies (including PCIJ) and law students – who have filed requests for SALNs as of Aug. 17, 2012.
THE FIRST WOMAN chief justice of the Supreme Court, Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, will have 18 years to roll our reforms in the judiciary, or nearly as long as the regime in power of strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos, who ruled without transparency and accountability.
It is too early to call a verdict: Will the courts open up under Sereno? Will she deliver “very good 18 years” or “very bad 18 years” in a judiciary long used to keeping the asset records of “the Gods of Padre Faura” under lock and key?
AMID the rampant misdeclaration or underdeclaration of their Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) by senior public officials lies a prettier, often overlooked, picture: the few good men and women in high and low positions who follow the law most diligently and truthfully.
To this minority of good SALN filers belong a number of Cabinet members and officials of constitutional commissions. The ties that bind them are a few things. Most came from the private sector or the professions where they founded their wealth. They are political appointees, but until they became part of government nearly all had no history of engaging in party politics or running in elections. Of fairly senior age, most are self-made names with fairly good credentials or work portfolio, even before public office beckoned.
WHATEVER THE outcome of the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, a once-ignored piece of document seems to be getting the attention it deserves at last. The question, however, is whether or not the general public’s increased familiarity with the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth or SALN would finally shame public servants into taking it seriously and accomplishing it beyond token compliance.
Corona is on trial at the Senate impeachment court in part for his alleged failure to disclose not just his SALN, but also the full details of his wealth. According to his prosecutors, Corona misdeclared, underdeclared, or did not declare multimillion pesos of cash and other assets.
WHAT follows is an account of PCIJ’s correspondences with the Office of the Secretary General and the Records Management Service of the House of Representatives, which as discussed in PCIJ’s story yesterday denied the release of the Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) and personal data sheet (PDS/CV) of the members of the 15th Congress.
The Office of the Secretary General is the repository agency of the SALNs of the members of the House of Representatives as provided in Republic Act No. 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees) and the Civil Service Commission’s Resolution No. 060231.
JUST A few weeks after the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao Massacre, where 58 people including 32 journalists were executed in a remote barangay in Ampatuan town, officials of the Firearms and Explosives Division (FED) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were surprised to receive a deluge of applications for gun amnesty from one particular province in Mindanao.
Every once in a while, the national government offers a gun amnesty to the general public. These amnesty offers are a general pardon of sorts, where people with loose or unlicensed firearms are allowed to have illegal guns licensed and registered in their names.
But this batch of applications raised a red flag among officials of the PNP-FED, the agency tasked with regulating gun ownership and use in the country.
MAGUINDANAO:The Quest for Justice is a documentary produced by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism on the second anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre. After two years, the Ampatuans have allegedly ramped up efforts to reach a settlement with the families of the victims. The families of the victims continue to hold out against the proposed settlement, even as they try to survive from day to day. In the meantime, the Ampatuan clan continues to wield clout in the region with its vast resources and continuing political influence.
WEEKS after the May 2010 elections, a question confounded Benigno Simeon ‘Noynoy’ C. Aquino III and his fund-raisers and allies in the Liberal Party: What to do with excess campaign donations that had then reached tens of millions of pesos?
In winner-takes-all fashion, not just votes but also funds had flooded the Aquino camp. This is even as a fund-raiser and a senior campaign staff would later say in separate interviews that Aquino had already served notice that he did not want to accept more donations. In Aquino’s mind, says the senior campaign staff, the last-minute bettors were not true believers but simply people angling to cut deals with the emerging election victor.
THE Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) was purposely created by the 1987 Constitution to depoliticize and to open up to the citizens the screening of nominees and appointments to the judiciary.
To achieve this, Associate Professor Dante B. Gatmaytan of the University of the Philippines College of Law says the JBC should have looked with favor at full transparency – in the conduct of its processes and in the handling of all its records – as both premise and armor of its grave mandate.
MOSTLY old, mostly male, mostly born and bred in imperious Luzon and all schooled in imperial Manila. Two in every three were jurists and bureaucrats in their previous lives, and thus, also mostly creatures of habit and routine. In the last 20 years, while 15 of the 80 nominees were female, only three women were eventually appointed.
This seemingly impregnable enclave of the elite is actually the Philippine Supreme Court, the most majestic of all the country’s courts, the final arbiter of constitutional questions, and “the last bulwark of democracy” in the land.