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Making A Mockery Of Transparency And Public Accountability

September 11, 2009

demos at ombudsman (Photo Credit: Philippine Star)

Public disgust for the government of the day got a boost this week.

Between its decision to transfer a convicted rapist to a foreign jail, the proposed tax and text, and the Ombudsman striking a blow against the constitutionally protected-public right to information Malacanang and its lapdogs did little to mitigate Filipinos ever-deepening ill feelings for  the current Malacanang tenant.

I’l just tackle the all to obvious stunt of Atty, Merceditas Gutierrez.

She’s really a class (read: crass) act.

Her Memorandum # 1 has an innocent looking header, cit ing the mandate of the constitutional office.

But a close reading of the document immediately reveals that public access to the statements of assets and networths of public officials has now been restricted.

OMBUDS MEMO MONTAGE 1

While the SALNs are public documents, no longer can any citizen freely request access to it.

Now such requests’ “reasonableness” will be subject to the Ombudsman’s own judgment ostensibly “to protect subject public officials against harassment.”

I can almost even follow and concede the logic there.

But wait.

OMBUDS MEMO MONTAGE 2

The Ombudsman has now given itself the authority to destroy such public records!

The action has obviously been triggered by the continuing unanswered questions about how the wealth of the First Couple has ballooned, along with that of their sons.

As today’s Philippine Star editorial correctly observes:

What constitutes harassment is hard to say. Yesterday, as the new restrictions came out in the media, Malacañang officials said members of the First Family were victims of harassment in the use of their SALN.
The statement was issued amid conflicting explanations given by President Arroyo’s eldest son, Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, about a waterfront property he acquired in California after he joined Congress. Initially he said the property had been turned over to a private company where he is a shareholder. When reports came out that no such company was registered in the county where the property is located, and that the property in fact is under the name of his wife Angela, he said the money he used came from gifts at his wedding and campaign donations.

The property was not declared in his SALN, and no such donations were specified in his declaration of contributions to his campaign. After running out of explanations, he gave critics the standard advice of everyone accused of impropriety in this administration: sue him.

The SALN is not a matter of national security. The Office of the Ombudsman has given assurance that mass media will continue to enjoy access to the documents, and that the restrictions are not related to recent reports on undeclared assets of the First Family. This assurance waits to be tested.

So whose interests is the Ombudsman protecting?

As we say in TagLish: HALATANG OBVIOUS!!!

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