SALN disclosure terms on top seats give SC vast powers
BY EVANGELINE DE VERA
THE Supreme Court yesterday finally issued the guidelines on the public disclosure of the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of justices, judges and other members of the judiciary.
In a 22-page en banc resolution penned by Associate Justice Jose Catral-Mendoza, the Court granted requests made by several media groups and transparency advocates seeking the release of the SALNs, personal data sheet, and curriculum vitae of SC justices, subject to limitations and prohibitions under Republic Act 6713, otherwise known as the Court of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
The decision to disclose their SALN effectively nullifies the SC’s May 2, 1989 resolution during the time of then Chief Justice Andres Narvasa, who was appointed to the high court by President Aquino’s mother, former President Corazon Aquino.
Based on the guidelines, the SALNs of the justices will not be released automatically to the public but on a per request basis.
The requesting party is also directed to cite the specific purpose and individual interests for seeking a copy of the SALN.
All requests should be filed with the Office of the Clerk of Court of the SC, the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan and the Court of Tax Appeals. For the lower courts, the request should be filed with the Office of the Court Administrator, and for attached agencies, with their heads of offices.
In the case of request for copies of the SALN of SC, CA, Sandiganbayan and CTA justices, “the authority to disclose shall be made by the Court en banc.”
The tribunal said requests for SALNs must be made under circumstances that “must not endanger, diminish or destroy the independence, and objectivity of the members of the Judiciary in the performance of their judicial functions, or expose them to revenge for adverse decisions, kidnapping, extortion, blackmail or other untoward incidents.”
“Thus, in order to give meaning to the constitutional right of the people to have access to information on matters of public concern, the Court laid down the guidelines to be observed for requests made,” the Court said.
In the case of requesting individuals other than members of the media, the Court guidelines said their interests should go beyond pure or mere curiosity.
On the other hand, the requests of members of the media seeking copies of the SALN of the members of the judiciary should be supported by “proof under oath of their media affiliation and by a similar certification of the accreditation of their respective organizations as legitimate media practitioners.”
The requesting party, whether as individuals or as members of the media, must have no derogatory record of having misused any requested information previously furnished to them.
During a special en banc session last May 30, the magistrates unanimously voted to approve the public disclosure of their 2011 SALN, subject to guidelines,
The 1989 resolution required court officials to submit their respective SALN before the Office of the Clerk of Court, and made it unlawful for any person to obtain or use any statement filed under Republic Act 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, for (a) any purpose contrary to morals or public policy, or (b) any commercial purpose other than by news and communications media for dissemination to the general public.