THE Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Networth (SALN) of magistrates should be made public.
This was the opinion of Cebu Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Meinrado Paredes as the country’s attention continues to focus on the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, whose property holdings have prompted questions about the propriety of releasing his SALN.
In an interview, Paredes said there’s no reason why the SALN of judges and justices shouldn’t be disclosed to the public.
“I see no reason why judges and justices should be exempted,” he told reporters yesterday.
Paredes, former executive judge of the RTC in Cebu City, said the SALN of judges and justices were kept away from public scrutiny since the time of former SC Chief Justice Andres Narvasa so the document wouldn’t be used to harass magistrates.
Narvasa served as the leader of the country’s judiciary from 1991 to 1998.
The practice of not revealing the SALNs of judges and justices to the public continues today.
Paredes said he disagrees with the High Court’s policy on this.
“If judges and justices are honest in their declarations on the SALNs, why should we be afraid? The SALNs can only be used against us if we don’t disclose the truth. It’s as simple as that,” he said, adding that he is willing to disclose his own SALN.
Paredes said even the SALNs of prosecutors were released to the public.
Paredes said full disclosure of SALNs is stated under Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
RA 3019 stresses the need for public officials to declare under oath their assets and liabilities and the public’s right to know of these assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests including those of their spouses and of unmarried children under 18 years of age living in their households.
Paredes said a scrutiny of the SALN of government employees and officials helps prevent graft.
“The SC resolution on not making public the SALNs of judges and justices should be revoked. We cry for transparency. We (judiciary) should set an example,” he said.
Paredes said he is afraid that there may be a constitutional crisis if the legislative and judiciary will have different interpretations of the law.
Earl Bonachita, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Cebu City Chapter, said it was fitting that High Court’s Clerk of Court Enriqueta Esguerra-Vidal surrendered Corona’s SALN to the Senate during the impeachment trial.
“That’s what the law says and no one should be above the law. The subpoena by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court for the clerk of court to turn over the copies of the SALN was just in accordance with the law,” he said.
He said Vidal should not fear sanctions for doing so despite the Supreme Court’s resolution that prohibits public disclosure of the SALN of judges, as she was merely complying with the senator-judges’ order.
“I don’t think the Supreme Court will impose any sanctions on the clerk of court. She had no choice but to comply with that order ,” he said. /Reporter Ador Vincent Mayol and Correspondent Patricia Andrea Pateña