Manila, Philippines – THE impeachment trial is over and there is a general agreement that we must move on.
Moving on should undoubtedly be towards the direction made clearer by the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona transparency in government and accountability of government officials and employees.
The Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) was at the core of the CJ Corona’s culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust. More than ever, the SALN is now a potent tool against corruption and abuse in government.
There are at least three key SALN issues that must be addressed for it to serve its true purpose and for it to have its true value in the context of good and honest governance.
The first issue is on the content of the SALN. During the trial, there was confusion on what real estate/property value should be declared in the SALN. Clearly, since the SALN is a tool to ascertain whether government officials and employees were able to acquire properties commensurate to their salaries and allowances, the acquisition cost, and not other values, should be reflected.
Moreover, given the revelations during the impeachment trial of CJ Corona, there is an obvious need for a more detailed declaration of assets and liabilities. Following the true essence of transparency, government officials and employees need to provide real property details such as title numbers, land area and the like for easier scrutiny of the public.
The second issue is on the manner by which the SALNs are made available and accessible to the public. We should commend the Supreme Court for its latest decision to make SALNs of all justices of the Supreme Court and judges all over the country available to the public. Indeed, any hindrance to the full disclosure of SALNs negates its true value.
The third issue is on the waiver regarding the confidentiality of the bank records of government officials and employees. Such is an essential step in institutionalizing transparency in government. While it may not result in the eradication of corruption if government, it will significantly promote the value of transparency.
Moving on after the conviction of CJ Corona means having sustained commitment to and efforts for a transparent government and for accountable public officials and employees.