By Raïssa Robles
UPDATE as of 8:50 PM, July 26, 2012 – My hubby-editor Alan changed the head to this.
You’d think that with everything that happened during the impeachment of Renato Corona as top judge, government officials especially congressmen would open up and be more transparent with revealing their wealth. Nope, sorry.
Just before Congress resumed its sessions, I decided to test the transparency and accountability professed by congressmen: I tried to get hold of some of their Statements of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
Imagine my surprise when I was told by someone at the Office of the Secretary General that they wouldn’t release them. In fact they wouldn’t release any at all.
I asked: Not a single one?
The man I talked to expressed regret and said a committee of lawmakers that would draft the guidelines for such release was formed last month but still had to meet. Until then, no SALN would be released.
What makes things interesting for me is that years before the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, it was much easier to obtain SALNs provided (1) You only wanted a few of them and (2) They didn’t belong to any lawmaker surnamed “Arroyo.”
The clampdown on information in Congress tightened as then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s relations with the media worsened. I remember one ridiculous – at least I thought it was an utterly ridiculous – situation when the House of Representatives voted on the Baselines Law late one evening.
The next day, I phoned the Bills and Index Section to find out how two people — Mrs Arroyo’s son and her brother-in-law — had voted on the Baseline Law the day before. By that time, the previous day’s journal of the House had already been printed and this recorded the vote of each congressman. There is nothing secret about how lawmakers vote.
Imagine my surprise – and OK, irritated amusement – when I was told I should first write a letter to the Office of the Secretary General expressing my request and my intention and this would be acted on the following day, maybe. But since my deadline was that very day, the information would have been useless to me by the next day.
I am writing this to explain that there are times that news is time-bound and disclosures done AFTER a certain time are useless.
Disclosures of SALNs would be useless if done close to next year’s elections. And so I hope that the House of Representatives will start releasing actual SALNs long before the period of filing of the certificates of candidacies for next year’s elections. And I also hope they do not bar media and anti-corruption groups from obtaining SALNS from previous years. Because the only way to appreciate the current SALN of a lawmaker is to compare this with his previous years’ SALNs.