SAGUISAG: SALN laws ‘misused to target political critics’ | Inquirer Opinion

SAGUISAG: SALN laws ‘misused to target political critics’

/ 05:01 AM December 17, 2020

Former chief justice Art Panganiban’s characteristically edifying Inquirer column, “Conundrums in attempts to oust Leonen” (12/13/20), led me to wonder if we would risk having impermissible selective prosecution in the case of Justice Marvic Leonen. We can’t single out anyone with an uneven hand and an evil eye, the famous teaching of Yick Wo v. Hopkins, even if the law be fair on its face.

If impeached or subpoenaed, he may ask that everybody else’s 1) statement of assets (Section 7 of Republic Act No. 3019, SAL) and of 2) statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) be produced, and thereby expose universal noncompliance.

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We have two laws on the matter, arguably misused to target political critics. Unequal protection.

Sec. 7 of RA 3019 does require “a true, detailed, and sworn statement of assets and liabilities, including the amounts and sources of his income, the amounts of personal and family expenses and the amount of income taxes paid for the preceding calendar year.” Then, we added in RA 6713, the disclosure of net worth and business links, among other things.

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On Justice Marvic’s situation in our Senate deliberations and the bicameral conference committee, I recall nothing said about impeachment and rendering justices jobless. To me, the matter was more for administrative record-keeping, tracing the movement of fortune and possible conflicts of interests.

No one raised impeachment when it came to penalties, which might have awakened our lawmakers.

As sponsor, I, admittedly, just one member, had not meant to make non-filing of assets impeachable. The penalty is five years and/or a fine of P5,000. Relatively light. Probationable. I discussed what would become RA 6713 with its principal author, Uncle Jovy Salonga, but never in an impeachment context. The law of unintended consequences?

Criminal and impeachment measures even for first-time offenders totally ignore that that law provides a review and compliance procedure in its Sec. 10. Gross bad faith and recalcitrance may then be detected and aptly sanctioned.

I have seen copies of the SALNs of President Digong and SolGen Jose Calida. Neither complies with Sec. 7 of RA 6713. Indeed, I doubt that anyone in government now does in our scofflaw society. It seems to be treated as just another traffic measure. Largely ignored.

I wrote some years ago that maybe the Civil Service Commission (CSC) should consolidate the two requirements in one form for administrative economy; the House of Representatives howled and the CSC retreated.

So, let me repeat my suggestions: 1) Enact a new law amnestying past massive wholesale violations; and 2) consolidate the forms as to Sec. 7 of RA 3019 and Sec. 8 of RA 6713.

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Amnesty forgets the past, but the law must have a stern warning that a repetition would get harsh treatment in a scofflaw nation trying to be law-abiding, and failing.

Rene A.V. Saguisag,Makati City

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TAGS: Justice Leonen, Rene Saguisag, SALN
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