Editorial: Chasing President Duterte’s SALN

·2 min read

Since the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term in 2016, the outgoing chief executive has yet to publicly divulge his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth or SALN, which the Official Gazette says is a “declaration of assets (i.e., land, vehicles, etc) and liabilities (i.e., loans, debts, etc), including business and financial interests, of an official/employee, of his or her spouse, and of his or her unmarried children under 18 years old still living in their parents’ households.”

Last July 2021, the Office of the Ombudsman rejected lawyer Dino de Leon’s request for copies of the President’s SALNs from 2016 to 2020, as consent of the declarant (Duterte) is needed for any request to be granted per the Office’s memorandum circular. The lawyer’s request for Duterte’s SALNs in November 2020 was also denied by the anti-graft office.

If the lawyer were a character in a classic novel, he could be Ahab—the captain of a whaling ship bent on capturing the white whale Moby Dick, which had bitten off his leg. The comparison would be in their dogged pursuit of what eludes them.

Republic Act 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officers and Employees) mandates that the SALN be publicly available.

Despite the Duterte administration’s vow to uphold transparency during his term, one thing is still lacking: his SALN being divulged to the public—voluntarily.

The spirit of the law is simple: Public servants must divulge the contents of their SALNs because they are, well, public servants. They must be open to scrutiny. They must answer questions.

President Duterte will wrap up his presidency in 23 days. At noon of June 30, 2022, he will become a private citizen. The chase for his SALN will probably end.

The President will be succeeded by Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. Will the incoming president follow in his predecessor’s footsteps regarding the SALN? Will he voluntarily divulge his SALN? One could only hope that he would have the courage to face scrutiny.

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