Palace officials refute PCIJ report on SALN disclosure

Palace spokespersons Edwin Lacierda and Abigail Valte on Wednesday disputed the alleged refusal or reluctance of Aquino administration officials to reveal their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).   Calling the report of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism as “irresponsible,” deputy spokesperson Valte took offense to the assertion of the PCIJ that she “won’t disclose” her SALN.   Through her Twitter account, Valte said she has “no problem giving it (the SALN) minus my home, address & my son's (a minor) name.”   “Interestingly, until four months ago, even the President’s deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte had cited “security” concerns arising from the disclosure of SALNs as one more reason why she said Aquino is reluctant to endorse the Freedom of Information bill,” the PCIJ article said.   ”At a press conference on Sept. 23, 2011, Valte had voiced her reluctance to reveal her own SALN. ‘That for me personally is a concern because I’m the one here (in government) and not my family,’ she said. ‘These are the types of concerns that we are trying to solve when it comes to the freedom of information bill,” the PCIJ story went on.   At a press briefing Wednesday, Lacierda said Aquino administration officials are always ready to disclose their assets.   “I don’t remember us not disclosing our SALN. It’s open. The number one who disclosed his SALN openly is the President of the Philippines, the highest official of the land has always revealed his SALN,” he said.   He urged government officials to emulate President Benigno Aquino III’s transparency and disclose their assets.   “He (Aquino) is a model by which the other branches of the government should emulate, including the Chief Justice,” he added.    “We would like to ask everyone, public official, one and all, in the light of transparency and accountability to disclose to the public their SALN,” he said.   “We would like to ask them to be judicious in the release of the SALN,” he added. “As far as public officials are concerned, as elected or appointed officials or servants of the Filipino people, it behooves each and every one of us to disclose SALN,” Lacierda said. He said there is nothing wrong in asking every public official “who is supposed to be accountable to the Filipino to release their SALN.”   He further said that the public only need to ask for the report of the officials SALN before the Office of the President and “it will be revealed unto you.”   Lacierda said the issue on SALN is in relation to the ill-gotten or hidden wealth of the Chief Justice.   “If you read the articles of impeachment, it is very clear, it is linked with the ill gotten wealth,” he said.   One of the grounds for impeachment of Corona was his alleged refusal to release his SALN. [View the story "New Story" on Storify]   House denies as well   The same PCIJ report said the 188 members of the House of Representatives who signed the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona did not disclose their respective SALNs.   Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo and Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara, spokesmen for the House prosecution team, on Wednesday denied that the House has a policy of non-disclosure.    They said they would check whether the House secretary-general indeed denied the PCIJ's request.   "As far as policy is concerned, bukas lahat and in fact in the last eight months, marami ng disclosures na ginawa," Quimbo said.   "There's just a particular process na kailangan pirmahan, pero bawal ‘yung ipagkait," he added.   Angara, who is in his third term as congressman, said his own SALN has been published since joined the House. — EVR/VS/KG, GMA News

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