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.
Sept. 6, 2010
PCIJ Research Director Karol Ilagan sent a letter to Secretary-General Marilyn B. Yap, requesting for (a) the 2008 and 2009 SALN and PDS/CV of the 14th Congress House members, and (b) 2010 SALN (upon assumption) and PDS/CV of the 15th Congress House members. PCIJ also sent an accomplished Request Form as required by the Secretary General’s office. The request was also made as a follow-up to PCIJ’s previous requests dated October 14, 2009 and May 19, 2010.
Sept. 28, 2010
Ilagan called the Secretary General’s office to follow up on the request. She was told that the letter was forwarded to Legal (office) on Sept. 6.
Jan. 18, 2011
Ilagan called the Secretary General’s office. Ilagan was asked to visit the House of Representatives and meet with Emily, a staff employee at the Office of the Secretary General.
Feb. 10, 2011
Ilagan, along with then PCIJ Senior Researcher Che de los Reyes, visited the Office of the Secretary General upon Emily’s advice that PCIJ talk to a director. Ilagan and de los Reyes spoke with Director Roberto P. Maling who said that he will check with Secretary General Yap on the status of PCIJ’s request. He promised to call the same day. He called at around 7 pm. De los Reyes talked to him. Maling asked PCIJ to send another letter stating a “more specific” reason why it needs the SALNs. He sounded very apologetic. PCIJ’s Sept. 6, 2010 letter indicated that it is requesting the said documents for “purposes of research.”
Feb. 17, 2011
PCIJ sent a revised letter upon Maling’s instruction that a “more specific” reason be cited. In the Feb. 17, 2011 letter signed by Ilagan and PCIJ’s Executive Director Malou Mangahas, PCIJ recounted the requests it had previously made to the Office of the Secretary General. It also said that as an independent media agency, it was requesting for copies of the documents “for research and reporting purposes.” As well, the request was made so PCIJ could update its library files of the SALNs and PDS of government officials and employees. An accomplished Request Form was attached to the letter.
A copy of the letter was furnished to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., House Committee on Public Information Chair Rep. Ben Evardone, Civil Service Commission Chairman Francisco Duque, and then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
A staff employee of the Civil Service Commission, upon receipt of PCIJ’s Feb. 17, 2011 letter, called Ilagan; the CSC staff said that she would check if CSC has filed of the House members’ SALN.
Feb. 22, 2011
Director Maling of the Office of the Secretary General called and said that PCIJ’s request was being granted. He said that PCIJ should coordinate with Atty. Ricardo Bering of the Records Management Service in order to have the SALNs and CVs photocopied. Ilagan then called Bering to arrange for a meeting the following day. Bering agreed to see Ilagan the next day in the morning.
Feb. 23, 2011
Ilagan and de los Reyes went to the office of Bering, who seemed to act as if he and Ilagan did not talk the previous day. He even had to call Director Maling of the Secretary General’s office. Eventually, Bering approved the release of the 2008 and 2009 SALNs. Ilagan asked about the 2010 SALNs, which was included in the request. Bering said that the 2010 SALNs were not yet available. Ilagan pointed out that the 2010 SALNs referred to in the request refers to the July 2010 or the SALN upon assumption of the House members. Bering said 2010 means “as of December 2010.” Bering made this assertion even if the request was dated Sept. 6, 2010.
Bering asked Ilagan to send another letter-request for the July 2010 or the upon-assumption SALN. Ilagan and de los Reyes arranged for the photocopying of the 2008 and 2009 SALNs at MAA, a photocopying service/station just outside Bering’s office.
Ilagan and de los Reyes then went to Maling’s office to clarify the 2010 SALN request. Maling said that another request should just be made. As for the CVs, he said he would follow this up with Human Resources. He also said that if the 2008 and 2009 CVs were with Records, then these should be provided. Ilagan and de los Reyes went back to Bering and told him what Maling said.
Feb. 24, 2011
PCIJ sent a new request-letter along with the Request Form to Secretary General Yap, following instructions from Bering and Maling.
Feb. 28, 2011
De los Reyes got a text from Tyrone of MAA (photocopying service), saying that the SALNs were ready for pick up. Ilagan then asked a PCIJ intern to go the following day and get the documents.
Mar. 1, 2011
The PCIJ intern went to Records but the documents were not immediately released to her; the documents would be released only to Ilagan. Ilagan phoned Bering, who asked if the intern was authorized to get the documents. He also asked Ilagan to send an authorization letter. Ilagan sent an authorization letter. The intern was then able to get the 2008 and 2009 SALNs upon payment of P4,065. Still pending are the 14th and 15th Congress members’ CV and the July 2010 SALNs and the December 2010 SALNs, which should be available after the April 30 deadline.
Mar. 3, 2011
Ilagan called the Secretary General’s office to make a follow-up. She was told that the letter was still with Legal, where it had been since Feb. 24.
Mar. 9, 2011
Ilagan called the Secretary General’s office to make another follow-up. Emily said that Ilagan should ask Bles of Legal. Ilagan phoned Bles of Legal. Bles said that the request was still being processed. “May process kasi (There is a process),” she said. She added that a response was still being prepared.
Mar. 21, 2011
Ilagan called Legal to make a follow-up. Chona of Legal told Ilagan to call again after lunch because the person concerned had stepped out. Ilagan received mail from Rep. Maximo Rodriguez of Abante Mindanao that contained his July 2010 SALN.
Mar. 24, 2011
Ilagan called Legal to make a follow-up. Bles said the request had already been transferred to the Secretary General’s office. Ilagan then called the Office of the Secretary General. Emily said that Ilagan should talk to Director Maling.
Mar. 28, 2011
Ilagan phoned Director Maling. Maling asked Ilagan to call back because he was still looking for the file.
Mar. 29, 2011
Ilagan called Maling, who said the request was “okay.” He advised Ilagan to call Atty. Bering of Records. Ilagan talked to Hans Cortez of Records. Cortez said he would call back. He did not.
Apr. 4, 2011
Ilagan called Bering of Records. Bering said that there was still “no action taken” on PCIJ’s request. He said the files of the July 2010 SALN were not complete. He insisted that PCIJ should just get the December 2010 SALNs because these should almost be the same with the July 2010 SALNs.
Ilagan then called Emily of the Secretary-General’s office who said that the reply pertaining to the approval of the request was sent to Records on Mar. 15. Ilagan called Cortez of Records. Cortez said that Records did not receive any reply, but that he would check and call back. He did not call back.
Apr. 19, 2011
House of Representatives was closed for the entire week.
Apr. 25, 2011
Ilagan called the Records Management Service. Cortez said he received the Mar. 15 letter. But he said he was told by Bering that only the December 2010 SALNs would be provided because the difference is just months from the upon assumption or July 2010 SALN. Cortez also said that he was just following orders. Ilagan called again to talk to Bering, but he was not available.
Apr. 26, 2011
Ilagan called the Secretary General’s office to clarify things. Jane said the copy of the letter with the signature and approval of Secretary General Yap was already with Records so that’s where PCIJ should coordinate. She said the Office of the Secretary-General had already approved it.
Ilagan then called the Records Management Service. Bering was in a meeting.
Ilagan called again and was able to speak to Bering. According to Bering, it was Maling of the Secretary General’s office who said that only the December 2010 SALNs should be released. Bering said he did not see the letter with Yap’s approval.
Ilagan then called Maling. Maling asked Ilagan to give him until the next Tuesday so he could check what happened; he could then give PCIJ the right response. He said PCIJ was not the only one with a request so the “baka sala-salabat na ang response.” He also said he was not sure anymore because there were many transactions at hand. Still, Maling said that the Speaker might have also given an instruction.
May 4, 2011
Ilagan called Maling who said that he would ask Bering. Maling then called Ilagan and said that the documents would not be released. He said the his office could only issue a summary of the SALNs of the House members. He said the process was “tedious” and “huhugutin bawat isa.” Ilagan told Maling that perhaps Records could keep a separate file for photocopying in order to keep the original files in tact. Maling said that RG Cruz of ABS-CBN also made a request and that he would tell him the same. Ilagan told Maling that she will send another request. Maling said that in the future, the House of Representatives will only provide a summary of the assets, liabilities, and net worth of the House members and not the actual copies of the document. When asked why the 2008 and 2009 SALNs were released, Maling said, “Ginawan lang ng paraan ‘yung dati.” He also said, “I hope you understand.”
Dec. 19, 2011
PCIJ sent a letter to Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., requesting a copy of the SALNs of the members of the prosecution panel and the rest of the members of the 15th Congress. The letter, which was signed by Ilagan and Mangahas, also recounted the previously denied requests with the Office of the Secretary General. A copy of the letter was furnished Secretary General Yap.
Director Maling called PCIJ office around 4:30 pm. Ilagan answered the phone and greeted him “Magandang hapon (Good afternoon).” Maling said (not exact words), “Mukhang ‘di maganda ang hapon, nabasa ko itong letter mo.” Ilagan told Maling that the letter was actually addressed to Tupas. He said, “So nagsend kayo kay Cong. Tupas?” Ilagan said yes.
Maling said that if PCIJ wants the SALN of the members of prosecution panel, Ilagan should fill out and send the SALN request form, like before. Ilagan said that she can do that and send the form by fax. Maling said his office needs the original copy. He also said that PCIJ would have to pay for the reproduction cost. Ilagan said this should be okay because PCIJ always carries the reproduction cost for SALN requests.
Maling then told Ilagan (not exact words): “Akala ko ba okay na tayo dati na summary na lang.” Ilagan said, “Sir, if you would remember, we did not agree to just having the summary. I’ve told you that we’ll not stop and we’ll send another request.” Then Maling said PCIJ’s reason was “manipis.” He said that if the SALNs were needed for a database, then the summary should be okay. He said that his office did not mean to hold the documents. (The reasons PCIJ stated were for “research and reporting purposes” and to “update PCIJ’s library files.”)
Maling then asked why PCIJ needs the actual documents. Ilagan told Maling that the SALN is a public document and PCIJ needs the details of the assets, for example, not just a total figure. He mentioned “manipis” again and said that in law, disclosure of the SALN is not just for “whatever” legal purpose. He said that it’s “not absolute.” Then, Ilagan explained to him again why PCIJ needs the SALNs. Maling said that PCIJ should submit again the Request Form. Ilagan then asked about SALNs of the rest of the members of the 15th Congress. Maling said that this should be included in Request Form.
Dec. 20, 2011
Ilagan sent Maling a clarificatory letter, saying that there is no need to send yet another Request Form because PCIJ has already complied with this before.
Dec. 21, 2011
Ilagan called the Secretary General’s office to make a follow-up. Lito said Maling was already on vacation/leave. Ilagan was told to call in January 2012.
Jan. 3, 2012
Ilagan called the Secretary General’s office to make a follow-up. Emily said Maling was not in the office. She said that the letter had been forwarded to Legal.
Jan. 12, 2012
Ilagan called Legal to make a follow-up. Bles of Legal told Ilagan to call again because the person concerned (Deputy Secretary) stepped out.
From September 2010 to December 2011, PCIJ made a total of 28 calls and sent four letters to the Office of the Secretary General to obtain copies of the July 2010 (upon assumption) and December 2010 SALNs of the 15th Congress members and the CVs and PDS of 14th Congress and 15th Congress members. As of this writing, these have yet to be released by the repository agency.— PCIJ, January 2012