A CLEAR, working system – with specific procedures and dedicated staff personnel – triggers quick, correct, and complete action by some government agencies on access to information requests.
But the absence of such a system in most other agencies, as well as the lack of fully defined rules and procedures that all agencies must observe in responding to requests, remain barriers to access.
Anyone who has earned more, acquired more, sold more, and inherited more should have paid the lawful and correct amounts of taxes that the government, by its sovereign right and duty, levies on any number of so-called “tax incidents” or taxable transactions on all citizens.
And anyone – not least of them lawmakers who had sworn to uphold and enforce the laws – who fails to file tax returns, with the correct amounts and within deadline, is certain to send the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) on an investigation into exactly what that individual has reported, or not reported.
THEY are supposed to be the exemplars when it comes to compliance with the law requiring all civil servants to declare and disclose the full details of their assets, liabilities and net worth.
After all, the Office of the Ombudsman is vastly empowered by the Constitution to serve as the premier integrity and anti-graft agency of the land.
But only token compliance to absolute indifference to the law on the filing and disclosure of their Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) seems to be the attitude and conduct common to Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez and her 11 deputy and assistant Ombudsmen.
NUMBERS – people, cases, funds – are a messy, maddening mix in the courts. The numbers defy all myth and romance about the majesty and dread that literature ascribes to the men and women in robes, and indications are they pose a perpetual challenge for the administrators of the country’s judicial system.
Indeed, attempts of the judiciary to keep a firm grip on its budget and fiscal processes alone have already triggered periodic delays in completing audit reports, as well as caused recurring disputes on compliance with budget circulars that should apply across the bureaucracy.
AMID the relentless reticence of the justices of the Supreme Court to publicly disclose their statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), the PCIJ launched a research into what could be their business interests and financial holdings by mining public records.
Our first stop was the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), where we found various companies listing the names of various justices as either incorporators, stockholders or board members. To verify the list, the PCIJ gathered the latest Articles of Incorporation, General Information Sheets, and Financial Statements of these companies.
GOOD GOVERNANCE is the solemn promise of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. Transparency and respect for access to information could enable it; the rule of law, or the prosecution of cases built on evidence before the courts, could assure it endures.
In President Aquino’s epic effort to rid the government of corruption, the judiciary will perform the critical role of arbiter, judge, and guardian. Yet the judiciary itself is nurturing a black hole of information, which could swallow into nothingness initiatives to limit, if not stop, corruption.