SC sacked RTC employee for not declaring market stall
The impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona has put the spotlight on an otherwise nondescript document that all government officials routinely file annually: the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
The Senate, sitting as impeachment court, will decide whether or not Corona has violated the Constitution by failing to disclose his SALN and declare everything he supposedly owns. If the senator-judges find him guilty of even just this one offense, the Chief Justice could be looking at the bleak prospect of being removed from office.
Supreme Court decisions show that violations relating to improper filing of a SALN, including what some may consider minor, have been meted out severe penalties.
In an August 2010 case decided by the Corona-led Supreme Court, a regional director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue was dismissed from government service for deliberately omitting two motor vehicles registered to him in his SALN declaration. The court said: “(T)he SSAL (sworn statement of assets and liabilities) is not a mere scrap of paper. The law requires that the SSAL must be accomplished as truthfully, as detailed and as accurately as possible.”
The high court also warned that the filing of the SALN “must not be treated as a simple and trivial routine, but as an obligation that is part and parcel of every civil servant’s duty to the people. It serves as the basis of the government and the people in monitoring the income and lifestyle of officials and employees in the government in compliance with the constitutional policy to eradicate corruption, promote transparency in government, and ensure that all government employees and officials lead just and modest lives. It is for this reason that the SSAL must be sworn to and is made accessible to the public, subject to reasonable administrative regulations.”
In a 1997 en banc decision that hit closer to the Supreme Court, a court interpreter in a regional trial court in Davao was dismissed from service, barred from reemployment in government, including government-owned or -controlled corporations, and all his retirement benefits forfeited. The court interpreter had failed to disclose that she had a stall in a public market.
The court said: “We have repeatedly held that although every office in the government service is a public trust, no position exacts a greater demand for moral righteousness and uprightness from an individual than in the judiciary.
“Personnel in the judiciary should conduct themselves in such a manner as to be beyond reproach and suspicion, and free from any appearance of impropriety in their personal behavior, not only in the discharge of their official duties but also in their everyday life. They are strictly mandated to maintain good moral character at all times and to observe irreproachable behavior so as not to outrage public decency.”
The Supreme Court discussed the importance of disclosing relatives in government in decisions as recent as those handed down just last year. Former public works undersecretary Salvador Pleyto was found guilty of simple negligence. The equivalent of six months of his salary from his retirement benefits was forfeited for failure to declare in his SALN his wife’s business interests and financial connections.
Mayor Paulino Ong of Naga, Cebu and Rosalio Galeos, a construction and maintenance man in the Office of the Municipal Engineer, were convicted of falsification of public documents for not declaring that they were cousins (their mothers are sisters).
The law requires government employees to declare those “related within the fourth degree of consanguinity or of affinity to anyone working in the government.” Lala Ordenes-Cascolan and Artha Kira Paredes, Vera Files
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