Palace to parties requesting for Duterte’s SALN: Follow mechanism, pursue other avenues

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16)— President Rodrigo Duterte is not concealing his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), Malacanang stressed on Wednesday, as it urged requesting parties to follow the appropriate protocols in obtaining the document.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, his spokesperson Harry Roque advised concerned groups or individuals to pursue other avenues if their requests come up short.

“There is a mechanism to be followed – follow the mechanism. If that does fail, then pursue further avenues under existing laws,” Roque said in an interview with The Source, noting that groups can file a writ of mandamus if needed.

The mandamus is a legal remedy seen as a “proper recourse for citizens who seek to enforce a public right and to compel the performance of a public duty, most especially when the public right involved is mandated by the Constitution.”

“If you think your rights are being violated and if that right is freedom of information then do as you must. But I can’t actually consider the President is concealing anything because, as far as I know, he has filed his SALN,” Roque added.

In 2019, the Philippine Center of Investigative Journalism said its request for Duterte’s 2018 SALN had been “tossed back and forth” between the Office of the Executive Secretary and the Office of the Ombudsman.

The PCIJ said various groups' requests were also turned down as the Ombudsman at that time has yet to finalize the new guidelines for the release of the SALNs of the chief executive and other senior officials.

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman recently announced tighter rules on the public’s access to the SALNs-- which is now limited to the following: (1) the duly authorized representative of the one who filed the document, (2) when request is upon lawful order of the court in relation to a pending case; and (3) when request is made for the purpose of conducting investigation.

No copy will be furnished in all other instances unless the requester "presents a notarized letter of authority from the declarant allowing the release of the requested SALN," according to the Ombudsman.