MANILA, Philippines – Copies of a government official’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) can be obtained in an hour or less from the Office of the Ombudsman, pursuant to the provisions of the Citizen’s Charter.
Under Memorandum Circular No. 03 dated Sept. 11, 2012, which will take effect on Oct. 15, requests for copies of SALNs will be granted unless there are reasonable and specific grounds to reject the request.
Assistant Ombudsman and spokesperson Asryman Rafanan, chairman of the Office of the Ombudsman’s Committee on Internal Rules and Regulations, said the new rules subscribe to the paradigm shift from “everything is secret unless allowed” to “everything is open unless restricted.”
Assistant Ombudsman Evelyn Baliton explained that unlike the old rules, which identify only three types of SALN request purposes – for press reports, student research, and court subpoena – the new guidelines provide that all requests shall be granted “subject only to exceptions provided by law or jurisprudence.”
She said a person can only be denied access to the document if the Office of the Ombudsman is not the official repository of the requested SALN; if the requested SALN is not on file or in its actual possession; if the purpose of the request is contrary to law, morals or public policy.
Baliton added that requests may also be denied if the request is for any commercial purpose other than by news and communications media for dissemination to the general public; if the request is prompted by sheer idle curiosity; or if the identity of the requesting party appears to be fictitious.
The Office of the Ombudsman may further deny access to a SALN if the requester has a derogatory record of having misused information previously furnished or if there are grounds to believe that the request is being made with a plainly discernible improper motive, like for harassment purposes.
In treating the SALN Request Form as a public record, Rafanan said the new guidelines allow the requester to indicate his reservation as to making known to the concerned public official or employee, if the latter so minds to inquire, the fact of the requester making the SALN request, unless the public official or employee can demonstrate that the specific requester committed a violation or encroachment of his/her rights and that his/her letter-request to obtain a copy of the particular SALN Request Form is for purposes of availing legal remedies.
The new rules maintained the provision that a requester may directly report to the Ombudsman’s fact-finding office and initiate a lifestyle check of public officials or employees even when their SALNs cannot be secured for any reason, as long as the requester has reason to believe that their assets and properties are unreasonably disproportionate to their income.
Rafanan said that the new guidelines ensure the widest possible public access to SALNs that are in the custody of the Ombudsman offices.
Under the new guidelines, the requester is required to present the originals of at least two IDs, one of which is a government-issued ID bearing his picture and signature; and in case of members of the press, the other ID should be an official Press ID with proof of affiliation or accreditation as a legitimate media practitioner.
In the case of students, a current student ID with an endorsement from the proper school authorities should be enough. Rules on SALN access eased | By Michael Punongbayan | The Philippine Star