The reveal SALN challenge
It has been slow going for the Right to Know Right Now (R2KRN) coalition, but they are not going to stop. Now they have come up with their SALN Reveal Challenge for 2022 aimed at revealing the “true colors” of the candidates, particularly those for national office, and giving the voters the information they need to select their leaders. In other words, the candidates don’t just talk the talk, they’ve got to walk the walk.
What is this challenge? First, candidates are challenged to issue the waivers to allow public access to their statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth. This will serve as the baseline information, and any leaps and bounds in the future (signs of corruption) will be easy to spot. The principle is that if these are larger than indicated by their government salaries, this means unexplained wealth and there will be hell to pay. Theoretically.
What about the candidates who are not government employees? They are really few. But there is Bongbong Marcos, who since his defeat in the 2016 vice presidential elections, has not been visibly employed so one may conclude that he is living on his inheritance (his father has the reputation of being No. 2 in the world’s 10 most corrupt leaders, allegedly having stolen at least $10 billion worth), or on his wife’s income (she is reportedly an excellent lawyer), or on the charity of his mother and siblings. For these people, they are asked to issue an equivalent sworn statement, or submit one through a public portal.
The same thing will be expected of Willie Ong, the vice presidential candidate of Mayor Isko Domagoso. Or Ka Leody de Guzman and his running mate, Walden Bello. Among the senatorial wannabees, we have, for example, Alex Lacson, or Minguita Padilla.
The point is, it will be nice for the voters to see the net worth of their wannabees. Not only that, it will be easier for them to compare it, for example, with their candidates’ campaign (or pre-campaign) expenditures. This early in the game, so they can make informed decisions. As in the case of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who spent the equivalent—at least in terms of full billing rates—P915 million in pre-campaign expenditures using traditional media (radio, TV, etc.). A senator’s salary is about P90,000 monthly, but the late Sen. Miriam Santiago estimated it to be about P1.4 million (including perks). I don’t know how much the mayor of Manila makes, but Isko Domagoso spent P735 million and Vice President Leni Robredo spent P500 million.
The voters would be also be interested to know that more than half of Lacson’s expenditures were spent in November last year (his ratings still didn’t go up much). Bongbong Marcos spent P330 million in December.
So, the voters could decide whether the candidates could be using their own money. If not, whose money are they using, and what is the quid pro quo? That will be a question that the voters could ask their favorites.
But the Reveal Challenge doesn’t stop at net worth. It also wants the candidates to sign the “irrevocable and unconditional waivers” for the release of their bank records and a confidentiality release form for their medical and health records. In other words, they want complete transparency from the candidates, who talk about transparency and accountability in their campaign platforms. Now the Reveal Challenge wants them to put their money where their mouths are.
The last challenge is for the senatorial candidates to sign the sponsorship form for the Philippine Freedom of Information law, and for the presidential candidates to commit publicly and make an unqualified declaration to push for its passage within their first 100 days in office. Again, to put their money where their mouth is.
Can you imagine if this type of challenge had been put out in the 2016 and 2019 elections? And met by the candidates? For sure, some of the candidates would have ended up losing instead of winning, with this much important information at the hands of the voters.
Because one thing is for sure: The Filipino voters are not dumb. They are just deprived of important information, or they have been brainwashed by disinformation and complete falsehoods. This challenge, if met, will provide them with enough information to make an informed decision. If unmet, it will at least tend to show the voters who are sincere, and who are charlatans.