• Malacañang: Lifestyle checks must be ‘lawful’

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    MALACAñANG on Thursday said it is open to lifestyle checks or the scrutiny of the bank accounts of all personalities who are allegedly involved in the pork barrel scam, including Cabinet members, as long as they are “lawfully conducted.”

    “This administration has consistently advocated openness, transparency and accountability of public officials. In line with this advocacy, the SALN of the President and Cabinet members have been released and made available to public. We note the call for a lifestyle check of public officials, as well as the call for the opening of bank deposits,” said Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.

    The Palace was reacting to calls by members of the House minority bloc, for the personalities named by Janet Lim-Napoles in her affidavit to reveal their bank accounts.

    The lawmakers made the call on Wednesday, a day after President Benigno Aquino 3rd belittled the expanded affidavit submitted by Napoles to the Department of Justice.

    The list included 20 former and incumbent senators, 100 congressmen and several Cabinet members.

    Among the more prominent Cabinet personalities were Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Director General Joel Villanueva.

    But Coloma explained that while the proposal seemed easy to do, there are requirements under existing laws, such as the Anti-Graft Law (Republic Act 3019) and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Government Officials and Employees (RA 6713) “before such check can be lawfully conducted.”

    “This is in line with the Constitution’s guarantee to due process of law,” he said, quoting President Aquino.

    On the inclusion in the Napoles list of incumbent government officials, Coloma maintained that “mere allegation does not affect the presumption of regularity in the performance of their current duties.”

    Moreover, he said, “there is need to recognize their rights to presumption of innocence specially while no concrete proof of wrongdoing has been presented against them.”

    “As the President has always emphasized: Let the evidence point to the direction of the inquiry and let justice be carried without fear or favor,” Coloma added.

    Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, a member of the House minority, said it would be “simpler” for those implicated in the scam to “just open their bank accounts [to scrutiny].”

    “That would be setting a good example because with the bank accounts disclosed, you would have the necessary documentary evidence if Napoles really transferred a certain amount of millions to lawmakers and Cabinet members,” the lawmaker reasoned out.

    Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan backed Colmenares, saying the opening of bank accounts is tantamount to a lifestyle check. Antonio Tinio of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list chided Aquino for taking up the cudgels for some members of his Cabinet.

    Coloma stressed that the government remains committed to pursuing evidence-based inquiry and that any legal actions shall be based on firm and substantiated proof that can pass judicial scrutiny.

    “The President believes that filing weak cases based on speculation or supported only by unverified information will be an exercise in futility, as those accused can go scot-free by invoking the principle of double jeopardy,” he pointed out.

    “Given the proliferation of lists and scenarios surrounding the testimony of Mrs. Napoles, it is likely that certain quarters may be deliberately muddling the issue. They may be carrying out a strategy of burn the house down by implicating as many political personalities as possible, thereby misdirecting the inquiry and dissipating efforts to make those involved accountable before the bar of justice,” he added.

    Other congressmen believe that instead of disclosing bank accounts, those implicated in the scam should reveal their Statement of Assets, Liabilties and Net Worth (SALN) to clear their name.

    “Bank accounts are not always a good indicator of hidden wealth because there could also be dummy accounts. No need to show bank accounts. SALNs are more comprehensive in terms of determining wealth and besides, SALN is a public document,” Ifugao’s Teddy Baguilat, chairman of the House Committee on Agrarian Reform, said in a text message.

    “I believe it would be more practical to look into the SALN instead since the SALN covers not only bank accounts but other assets such as real estate properties, vehicles, etc…as well as business and financial interests of an official, of his or her spouse, and even that of his or her unmarried children under 18 years old still living in the parents’ households,” Marcy Teodoro, chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, said.

    House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption party-list and Walden Bello agreed with Baguilat and Teodoro.

    “The disclosure of their SALN is a better alternative and more in consonance with the presumption of innocence until proven guilty,” Tugna said.

    “All should bare their SALNs,” Bello added.

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    6 Comments

    1. mauricio palao on

      Instead of ‘tip-toeing’ around this case of ‘SERIAL PLUNDER’ Malacanang should lead the charge to break it wide open, and let the fallen lie where they lay. Laying waste to this evil scourge is much too important to be concerned about niceties. Set aside the ‘Code of Ethical Standards’ and the mantra of ‘..presumption of innocence’. Let’s, quietly, check and verify bank accounts of the parties involved in the plunder. “A GRANDES MALES, GRANDES REMEDIOS”..Big Problems Require Big Remedies.

    2. All government officials, Legislators, people who work for the governments specially in BOC,and among others should be audited, because the general Filipino perceptions of these people are all involved in corrupt practices. Those found strongly suspect, be prosecuted, and when found guilty should be jailed with time commensurate with the amount of ill gotten wealth to include the properties bought with the dirty money, without the benefit of pardon or parole. This is just the beginning, to enhance honesty as a public servant, moving forward. With this you gain the respect of your fellow Asian, and the world. God bless the Philippines and all patriotic Filipinos, who prayerfully persevered.

    3. I don’t know why every body are scared to open or show their bank account. In u.s. and in European countries the investigator can trace the hidden money or invest in other country by swift. But in the philippines the investigator is luck of access in time of information and investigation. All top and high profile cases in the philippines no one can prosecute or put in jail.every are above the law that is philippines.

    4. double standard talaga itong gobyerno ni Aquino….pero noong impeachment ni CJ Corona nakuha ng prosecution ang kanilang ebidensiya sa illegal na paraan…

    5. Joker Abnoy on

      Puwede sigurong magkaroon din ng white samll lady na magdadala sa media ng mga revealing documents from the bank o ilalagay sa gate ng isang media men at tapos ibibigay sa mga columnists para naman malasap nila ang ginawa nila ng nakaraang impeachment; what you sow, you will certainly reap. Ayos yun, mararamdaman nila kung paanong sakit ang ginawa nila sa taong walang kalaban laban.

    6. Its strange how they want it done legally for congressmen but when they impeached corona his account details were disclosed illegally. I dont care how they get the details as anyone of these corrupt officials will hide their money where you cant find it by legal means, so the law will defend them. I say just as coronas accounts were disclosed illegally so it should be that anyone who has illegal money if they are told to others even if they got it illegally its ok. How else can we find these scum out, stop protecting them as if you protect them it could mean you are one of them.