Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda recently went out of his way to declare on state-run radio dzRB that it is the obligation of a public official to declare all of his or her assets in his or her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, and that includes dollar deposits. This obligation applies to all officials, from President Aquino to the Vice President, and down the line, including Senate President, House Speaker, Chief Justice, senators, congressmen, cabinet members and all government employees.
The SALN, which should be filed and updated every April 30th, is supposed to be the best way of checking if government officials have enriched themselves while in public office. However, if the defense team of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona is to be believed, dollar accounts somehow do not fit the definition of the word “asset” and should be exempted from being declared in the SALN. If that argument is even remotely plausible, then this important document that is supposed to hold government officials and employees responsible and accountable has been reduced into a piece of useless paper in this country’s crusade against corruption.
No matter what the outcome of this historic impeachment, the government, through its legislators who are supposed to be the representatives of the people and their interests; must move quickly to definitively close any loopholes that have been discovered and can still be exploited by dishonest government officials to hide ill-gotten wealth. Hiding money from government investigators and avoiding any form of accountability shouldn’t be as easy as putting it in foreign currency bank accounts and invoking absolute secrecy when the snooping starts to become too uncomfortable. If the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government cannot work together to ensure that government officials, no matter what their position may be, cannot use dollar accounts to hide money again, then we can all assume that they have their own selfish reasons for keeping the Corona model for hiding assets as a viable option for thieves in government offices all over the country.
The impeachment of CJ Corona has revealed many areas of concern for the judges who are also legislators. We hope that when they do get to act on these concerns, our Senators will make it harder for crooks in government to steal rather than make it harder for graft busters such as the Ombudsman, to crack down on graft and corruption.*