If there is one great thing that the recent impeachment proceedings achieved, it raised the standard of ethics and transparency in public service. The conviction of the Supreme Court Chief Justice has sent the message that everyone in government can be held accountable for misdeeds and omissions committed while in public office.
What the Aquino administration should do at this point is not only to follow through by holding the CJ criminally and civilly liable as well but to pursue, with the same energy and vigor, going after other high government officials who have committed the same infraction (including non-declaration of foreign currency deposits in the SALN), starting with those in its own backyard.
However, despite proof that impeachment as an accountability tool can actually work, suspicions of politics as the principal motivation for the decision against the former CJ will always be there. There will always be those who would say “weather-weather lang yan.” There are observations that some of the accusers themselves may be guilty of having done what the former CJ was found guilty of, if not worse.
It is therefore best to adopt transparency policies that should be consistently applied and implemented across the board, that is, to everyone in government, friends and foes alike, and be made effective at the earliest opportunity.
The earliest opportunity, at least for elective officials, is at the time when aspirants formally declare their intentions to be considered for public office. In our system, it is at the time of the filing of Certificates of Candidacy.
It may then be wise to require or mandate the submission of a sworn Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) as part of the Certificates of Candidacy for all those seeking public elective office. The SALNs together with the Certificates of Candidacy are to be considered public records, open to public scrutiny.
The benefits to this recommended requirements are:
1. Only candidates who are willing to be open and transparent about their assets can submit themselves to the judgments of voters.
2. Voters can potentially have more information and basis (business and financial interests and holdings) in evaluating the candidates they are going choose from. It is like providing the employers (the people) with more information in deciding who among the job applicants (the candidates) the will hire.
3. The SALNs can provide baseline information for monitoring compliance of candidates with campaign finance laws and regulations.
Other countries require statement of assets and liabilities with the nomination of candidates. India is one of them. There is no reason why Philippines cannot. Anchoring its government program on anti-corruption, the current administration must consider pushing for this measure. It is one way of showing that it is putting its foot where its mouth is. Right now, Section 74 of the Omnibus Election Code provides the information that should be contained in the Certificates of Candidacy. None of them relates to SALN. It is time for Congress to consider making this requirement as one electoral reform measure.
What do you think?