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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chiz calls on government officials, employees to voluntarily submit SALs

Opposition Senator Chiz Escudero yesterday called on all government officials to voluntarily submit and make public their statements of assets and liabilities (SALs) as part of efforts to ensure more transparency in government.

"We lack transparency in government. Our country has been ranking as one of the lowest in transparency surveys. If we are to curb corruption in the public service, we have to start with the very people that run the show," Escudero said.

A voluntary disclosure of the SALs of public officers, Escudero said, is just one of the ways of increasing transparency in government.

"This way, we can see if a government official or employee has enriched himself or herself during tenure. Public office is a public trust, and we cannot allow corrupt public officers to seek refuge under the protection of our banking secrecy laws," he said.

The senator also batted for the passage of a bill he filed which would enable the government to examine the bank accounts and investments of public servants.

Escudero said Senate Bill No. 1476 puts in place a mechanism that allows the government to audit the finances of all public officers by requiring them to submit a written permission or waiver in favor of the Office of the Ombudsman.

"But until this bill is approved and passed into law by Congress, we should address the lack of transparency in government. This is why I am asking all government officials to voluntarily submit their SALs and make it public so that the Filipino people may know who enriched themselves during government service," he added.

According to the senator, a similar policy had been enforced in the United States, particularly among members of the Judiciary.

"The financial information on judges and employees working in Federal Courts may be requested by the public online. All one has to do is fill up a form. Why can't we do that here?" Escudero asked.

"I stress the importance of increasing transparency in government. International corruption watchdogs have been tagging the Philippines as not only one of the most corrupt in the Asia, but in the world as well," he said.

Escudero cited Transparency International's annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI), where the Philippines has been spiraling downwards for the last five years, as an indication of how the international community views the country when it comes to corruption.

"We were ranked 102 in 2004 and in 2008, we dipped to 141st. We have to arrest this negative perception if we want to survive as a nation. It doesn't just affect us politically, but also economically. No one wants to invest in a country that is perceived to be corrupt," the senator explained.

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