The illustration simply portrays how legislators push the bill into law that centralizes the filing of public officials’ SALN. The SALN or the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, is one of the mechanisms of the state to continuously provide transparency to the public. It is even provided in the 1987 Philippine Constitution about the public officials being a public trust. However, even if there are efforts and fulfillment of responsibility coming from the legislative branch to implement such policy, cases wherein correct information of properties, income, and benefits from selfish and greedy politicians can still easily be manipulated by them.
Let us ground this scenario from the very controversial story of the Philippine government putting the judiciary into the limelight. Former Chief Justice Renato Corona was put into an impeachment trial due to different grounds violated and that betrayal of public trust into various cases were presented; If I am to analyze how cases of channeling properties exist, I think this is also because of the lax implementation of state policies and regulations. Even if, public officials are mandated by law to provide SALN to assure transparency, still this has loopholes. The government should let the public access information concerning properties of public officials and that if there is fulfillment of the concept of simple living when they are in post. I am fully aware, that even if the state considers this information as public, still there is hoarding that happens and exemptions observed – maybe because of self-protection or up to the most sensitive aspect, can be used as an avenue for mudslinging. I only have one certain ideology that keeps my stance firm, once public officials and employees have started working in government and are put into positions by the power of democracy, they have also contracted themselves to the public. They should not only know the luxury and wellness of their position, but must always consider accountability of actions and even the worst consequences that they may experience. I know people would ask me why this standard should be the biggest deciding point of transparency, I think this doesn’t end the delineation or dichotomy of the public and private lives of politicians, but rather creates a clear line on how they should act and fulfill their functions for the people.
Moreover, being a public figure is a clear manifestation as an image being guarded by the people, and with this characterization, it answers the question of why. My stance on this doesn’t conclude how people should demand everything on their officials but for as long as it is reasonable, public-driven, and caters the interest of the majority, then I think it is valid. If really politicians aren’t afraid of anything, therefore disclosing their SALN should not be a problem at the end of the day.
Now, let us answer the question of how people will benefit from this information if in the first place this does not concern them at all. Cheesy as it may sound, this is maybe the painful thing the officials should give up for its people, the mere idea that the trust being rendered into them from the time they are voted is worth the choice of the people. This also could be a mechanism for assessing public officials by their constituents.
But the most commendable thing that politicians must uphold is honesty!
-Reuben James Barrete