House reso on redacted SALNs may violate Constitution: Palace

MANILA MalacaAang on Monday said that the resolution of the House of Representatives calling for stricter rules on public access to the statements, assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALNs) of its members may violate the Constitution.

The House, in a plenary session on Wednesday night, approved Resolution 2467 which redacts or blackens several details in their SALNs "for security and privacy reasons."

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that although Palace will not interfere, lawmakers should not forget that they are obligated by law to release information on matters of public concern.

As a policy, the Executive does not intrude into the internal rules and procedures adopted by the two separate but independent branches of the government, Panelo said in a statement.

Panelo, however, explained that the House move to redact details in their SALNs might be seen as going against the law.

Such a procedure may be perceived as a transgression of Article XI of the Constitution, requiring any public official to submit a SALN, in relation to Article II thereof which guarantees the right of the people to information on matters of public concern. Republic Act No. 6713 makes the said document readily available to the public, Panelo said.

He also emphasized that the Executive Branch continues to operate under Executive Order No. 2, otherwise known as Freedom of Information (FOI), mandating full public disclosure of all its offices.

The Executive promoted transparency when the President issued Executive Order No. 2 (s. 2016) on the Freedom of Information making effective the people's right to information within its branch, Panelo said.

Any stringent measure which burdens the people in obtaining public information may not be consistent with transparency and accountability of public officials, he added.

In a Palace briefing, Panelo urged House to further deliberate on the resolution. We are saying that we hope the House deliberates more on this because it may be running the risk of being questioned later on, Panelo said.

As far as the Executive Department is concerned, we issued the Executive Order on Freedom of Information precisely because we want the SALN to be readily available to the public, he added.

Panelo said that taxpayers can also question the House resolution if they think it is in violation of the Constitution.

Just days before his first State of the Nation address on July 23, 2016, President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Executive Order No. 02 establishing the first FOI program in the country.

The FOI program allows Filipino citizens to request any information about government transactions and operations provided that it shall not put into jeopardy privacy and matters of national security. (PNA)

Source; Philippines News Agency

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