By Raïssa E. Robles
I’m glad he did. I hope he starts the ball rolling with the rest of the congressmen and senators. And those in the Executive Department. The Judiciary. The police and military top brass.
Oops, I nearly forgot. Also the top officials of the COA, Comelec and Ombudsman Office.
Here is Casiño’s two-page SALN below:
I remember asking House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte just after he had assumed his post in 2010 whether Congress could automatically post the SALN of all the lawmakers on its website together with a detailed listing of their “pork barrel” projects.
Belmonte, widower of my late editor Betty Go-Belmonte, told me that would be “difficult”.
I laud Casiño for making his SALN public.
But I would like all lawmakers including Casino, in the spirit of transparency and accountability, to make their SALN more VERIFIABLE.
This goes the same for officials in the Executive Department, the Judiciary, and even the military.
Having examined SALNs throughout my career as a reporter, I have noticed that except for the disclosure of the names of private companies with which a public official is connected, almost everything else in the SALN is OPAQUE.
For instance, when they mention ownership of agricultural, commercial or residential land or houses, I do believe they should give the address and, if a condo unit, the name of the building.
In addition, lawmakers should also detail their corporate stocks whenever they own these, so that their voting or statements affecting corporations can be compared to their portfolios.
The point of a SALN is to discourage those in government from being tempted to acquire ill-gotten wealth.
Previous Supreme Court decisions have already established that if an asset is not in the SALN, then that can already be considered ill-gotten.
Some lawmakers have in the past told me that restricting access to SALNs was meant to protect government officials from blackmail, kidnapping, or extortion.
I’m sure lawmakers can deal with this sort of thing, given their political clout.
All lawmakers, all Supreme Court Justices, the President and his entire Cabinet, the Vice-President, and the police and military top brass should all disclose their SALN online. If they have nothing to hide, what would be wrong with that? OK, they can block off the address of their main house of residence, but everything else – especially real property investments should be disclosed.
The rest of the government officials could be made to disclose their SALN using an easy process open to all legitimate anti-corruption watchdog groups and journalists whether traditional or online. To make the process even easier, requests and releases could be done online, so long as the requesting party’s identity has been verified.
I don’t even mind if the government charges for this using PAYPAL or some other way of charging. I mean, this would be easier than traveling in person to Congress or all those offices. I remember that when I obtained the SALN of various senators, the xerox charge per page was higher than usual.
Am I dreaming?
But let me share with you something I’ve just learned.
Early last year I kept seeing on FAcebook this demand: “Impeach the Supreme Court Chief Justice…”
They must be dreaming, I thought.
I wasn’t wrong. Because they kept dreaming they could do it and they did something about it, it came to pass. Today the Chief Justice has been impeached and this Monday he will stand trial.
So let me go on dreaming about this and many many more things about our country :)