03 February 2012

'Crash Course' On SALN


Government workers and officials need a “crash course” on how to truthfully and correctly fill up the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), Sen. Ralph G. Recto suggested Friday.
Recto made the suggestion as the SALN continued to take center stage at the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona in the Senate.
The prosecution is trying to present Corona’s SALNs as evidence that he deliberately did not include a number of properties as assets.

Recto proposed that the Civil Service Commission (CSC) lead the nationwide education campaign on SALN in all government offices.
“The retooling of the SALN should start in re-orienting the entire bureaucracy on how to fill it up so that no lapses, discrepancies, omissions, or concealment would be committed,” Recto, Senate ways and means committee chairman, said.
“A crash course on ‘SALN 101’ should be in order,” he added.
Recto said some 1.3-million state employees, including at least 18,000 elected officials, will be submitting their SALN on or before April 30, and they will need the “expert guidance of the CSC as the issuing authority.”
“To succeed as national vaccine against state corruption, the new SALN form must be executed with utmost precision for substantial compliance and this could be addressed only via a tutorial on correct filing,” he said.
For a uniform and vigorous compliance with the new SALN form, the CSC should really step in to educate the entire bureaucracy from LGUs, departments, and agencies.
The CSC through its resolution 1100902, has unveiled a revised SALN form, which includes new “fill in the blanks” such as the declaration of “personal and family expenditures”, “amount of taxes paid” and “amount and sources of gross income”, which were not in the old SALN form.
Recto lamented that the CSC may have “overdone” the revising of the SALN since it was impossible for any ordinary clerk to supply figures about his personal and family expenses, since most of his transactions may not be covered by supporting documents such as official receipts.
He said the CSC requires filers declaring their “personal property and other assets” to distinguish which, among them, are “tangible” and “intangible.”
Recto said the CSC should have just used as template the American SALN version which gives filers leeway to state their expenses in “ranges” such as from P100,000 to P150,000 and not in absolute figures.
“A national awareness program on the new SALN would ensure that no public official would be charged or impeached in the future on the ground of defective execution of SALN,” he said.
A major issue regarding the SALN is whether the non-inclusion of certain assets constitutes a serious criminal offense.
The question has many officials of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) intently following the Corona trial.
They cited the case of former Quezon City Revenue Regional Director Antonio Montemayor who died last year shortly after the Supreme Court dismissed him for not including a car as an asset in his SALN.
Another revenue regional director was suspended last year by the Office of the Ombudsman for inadvertently excluding from his SALN the insignificant share of stocks of his wife in a realty firm.
Corona's lawyers argued that such an omission is not a criminal offense under civil service rules, and the public official who commits the omission does not merit dismissal or suspension.
The chief of the defense panel retired Justice Serafin Cuevas, said the Civil Service Commission allows the correction of such errors.
The prosecution stresses that such dishonesty is a serious crime that requires the ouster of Corona for alleged "culpable violation of the Constitution, tantamount to betrayal of public trust."
By ROLLY T. CARANDANG and JUN RAMIREZ
MB.COM.PH

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