Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has criticized her successor Samuel Martires for ordering to limit public access to a government official’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), saying his statement is against the Office of the Ombudsman’s mandate to promote transparency.
“It goes against the constitutional principle that public office is a public trust... there is this law [that] mandates the filing of SALNs and also mandates that the public shall be entitled to even a photocopy of the SALN of public officials or employees for as long as they don’t cross the prohibited acts,” Morales said in a television interview on Thursday.
Martires issued his order on Wednesday, amid the controversy involving the alleged non-filing of Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Marvic Leonen of his wealth document for several years.
Incidentally, Carpio-Morales and Leonen were both appointed to the high court by former President Benigno Aquino III. Martires is also a former Supreme Court Associate Justice.
Last week, Martires limited public access to Leonen’s SALN just as a lawyer was urging the current Ombudsman to secure copies of the document.
Leonen allegedly failed to file his SALN when he was still teaching at the University of the Philippines.
Republic Act 6713 of 1989, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, requires all government officials and employees to file their yearly SALNs.
As Martires was issuing the order, lawyer Larry Gadon, the “sworn enemy” of Aquino III appointees to the high court, was reiterating his appeal to Solicitor General Jose Calida to file a quo warranto petition seeking Leonen’s removal from his post.
In a letter to Calida dated Sept. 25, Gadon said “the recent denial of the Supreme Court” of his “request for the release of certified copies of Leonen’s SALNs should not dampen the advocacy” to push the quo warranto petition, like what had happened in the case of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Sereno was removed as Chief Justice, the fifth highest position in the land, for her non-filing of SALNs during her earlier service in the government.
Calida and Gadon recently asked the high court to compel Leonen to present in public his SALNs in response to a newspaper columnist's allegation that he failed to submit his SALN for several years when he was still a professor at the University of the Philippines’ College of Law.
Calida and Gadon filed separate request for Leonen's SALNs in preparation for the filing of a quo warranto petition that may see him removed from the out of the high court like Sereno.
Martires defended his order, saying the SALN does not prove a person's corruptibility.
Despite his dissenting opinion against the historic ruling on the Sereno’s ouster, Leonen said there was “nothing sinister” in his colleagues' interpretation on the quo warranto case.
“There is nothing sinister behind their interpretation. Their interpretation held some water but on the other hand, well, I did not see it that way,” Leonen said in a television interview two years ago.