THE Supreme Court (SC) has turned down a plea for disclosure of its justices’ Statements of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) in order to protect the judiciary against possible harassment from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
Lawyer Theodore Te, SC Public Information Office chief, on Thursday said the request was unnecessary because the SALN have always been made available to parties testing transparency of members of the highest court of the land.
“Please note that the SC [justices have]never said they are exempt from the SALN requirement nor that they are creating a new rule for themselves. That members of the media and civil society, including law students, have been able to obtain copies of various SALN of the justices is proof enough that the SC justices are not hiding anything,” Te added.
Te said BIR Commissioner Kim Santos-Henares just failed to give the right reasons behind her plea to allow the High Court to release the SALN of the justices.
“The denial of the [commissioner’s] request must be contextualized, based on the reasons she has given in her request,” he added.
In the request made by Henares to the SC last March 20, one reason she gave was “For tax investigation purposes pursuant to Section 5B of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) of 1997 in relation to the Ma’am Arlene Controversy in the judiciary.”
The SC magistrates said they believe that reason is “dangerous” because it could subject them to harassment.
The case of “Ma’am Arlene” who supposedly symbolizes alleged corruption in the judiciary is pending in the High Court.
After Chief Justice Renato Corona stepped down after his impeachment trial in December 2011, the BIR immediately procured his SALN and immediately filed tax-evasion charges against him before the Justice department.
Now, Corona is on trial before the Court of Tax Appeals in view of the tax raps filed by the bureau.