Justices of the Supreme Court (SC) will be forced to disclose their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) under the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill that the House public information panel approved on Monday.
Under existing rules, the SALN of a sitting SC justice will only be released to the public if it is authorized by the court en banc.
The FOI bill mandates government agencies and public officials to disclose all information pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as government research data used as a basis for policy development.
“If this FOI becomes a law, they [Supreme Court Justices] would have no choice but to comply. A Supreme Court resolution cannot override the law passed by Congress.
Moreover, the Constitution and other existing laws already mandate that they disclose their SALN. The FOI only provides the mechanisms how to disclose [them]. If they fail to do so, that is willfully violating the law and the Constitution,” Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez of Akbayan party-list, one of the bill’s authors, said.
He added that the House version of the measure is an improvement of the Senate version because it mandates disclosure of public information even in the absence of a request.
The House version also requires government agencies to publish documents involving big government contracts online.
“Our FOI bill acknowledged that we need to improve our system of accessing information, and since it is supply-driven, this ushers in an unprecedented level of transparency in governance,” Gutierrez pointed out.
“This is not a watered-down bill. We want to strengthen the access to public information, and we won’t approve anything that would jeopardize that,” he said.