Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New things we learned (during Typhoon Ondoy and in its aftermath). So far.

By Siesta-friendly

1. In support of its breastfeeding priority policy, EO 51 prevents manufacturers and distributors of breast milk substitutes (read: milk) without DOH approval. Makers and distributors requested to donate milk claimed they were prevented from donating milk because the DOH was withholding its approval.

The issue seems to have been resolved with the DOH eventually relenting but a couple of days after Ondoy left.

2. The government of a country with only a wet and dry season could not deploy rescuers while the rains were falling and the streets were flooded as government people are apparently allergic to rains and floods. The alternative view that they are too stupid to act is harder to take.

3. The government of our archipelago - where fishing and ferrying are big - can not find 50 boats to rescue hundreds of thousands of victims. The national government dispatched 49 rubber boats to rescue people.

4. The government of 7,100 islands has a navy with only 13 rubber boats. 13 of the 49 boats rubber boats dispatched by the government were those from the Philippine Navy.

5. Marikina River – 11 km long with an area of 220 ha. – only has 13 rubber boats.

6. Government helicopters can only go on reconnaissance missions, not rescue.

7. We actually have a National Disaster Coordinating Council. [Pause to reflect] Well, maybe to function as spin masters to downplay tragedy, make the government look good and blame everything on climate change. Or meet to discuss what else they can’t do and simply keep tabs on the death toll. Then it makes sense.

8. Some people are really incorrigible liars with the latest evidence being the 2009 SONA when she proclaimed that:

“…international authorities have taken notice that we are safer from environmental degradation and man-made disasters.

As a country in the path of typhoons and in the Pacific Rim of Fire, we must be prepared as the latest technology permits to anticipate natural calamities when that is possible; to extend immediate and effective relief when it is not; the mapping of flood-and-landslide-prone areas is almost complete. Early warning, forecasting and monitoring systems have been improved …

We have worked on flood control infrastructure … which will pump the run off waters from Quezon City and Tondo flooding Sampaloc. This will help relieve hundreds of hectares in this old city of its age-old woe.”

9. An LGU can reverse the DepEd’s class suspension order. The Taguig LGU allowed Beacon International (Elementary) School to hold classes on Wednesday (Sept 29) contrary to the DepEd’s order applicable to all NCR schools. Either Taguig, the school or its students are apparently beyond DepEd’s jurisdiction.

Hmmm, does this give rise to a new protocol of getting confirmation from an LGU whenever the DepEd suspends classes?

10. One presidential candidate’s campaigning knows no limit.

11. While other candidates’ campaigns find no reason to stop. Aquino, Estrada met Sunday night over 2010 polls.

12. Willie Revillame has a helicopter.

13. NDCC Chairman Gilbert Teodoro has ambitions of ruling our country.

14. If we elect the same mayors, governors, congressmen, and other leaders based on popularity than actual public deeds and foresight, we’ll continue getting what we vote for: Incompetent service.


Monday, September 28, 2009

“We did not expect this” (Why did the National Disaster Coordinating Council not expect a disaster?)

By Siesta-friendly

With 3 tv stations, thousands of soldiers already stationed within or nearby affected areas, the necessary manpower, equipment and transportation, and all its power and authority, government rescue efforts were glaringly absent in any of the oral and video reports within the first 24 hours of typhoon Ondoy’s arrival. Not even the rumour of any soldier, army truck, personnel carrier or helicopter actually helping out.

NDCC Member-Agencies

The NDCC is not some small government agency mind you. It is composed of the following government agencies:

  1. Department of National Defense (DND)
  2. Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
  3. Department of Science and Technology (DOST)
  4. Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)
  5. Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)
  6. Department of Health (DOH)
  7. Department of Education (DepEd)
  8. Department of Agriculture (DA)
  9. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
  10. Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC)
  11. Department of Finance (DOF)
  12. Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)
  13. Department of Budget and Management (DBM)
  14. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)
  15. Philippine Information Agency (PIA)
  16. Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC)
  17. Office of Civil Defense (OCD)

Where were they all day of Saturday, September 26, 2009? 48 hours after the typhoon struck, people were still hungry and stranded in their homes.

And we’re not talking about some far-flung province. Hardest hit was Metropolitan Manila where all said agencies are headquartered and where the seat of government lies.

Setting up an excuse, Defense Secretary and National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) Chairman, Gilbert Teodoro, over the radio said that they did not expect what happened. The National Disaster Coordinating Council does not expect a disaster? The government is unprepared for the effects of a typhoon in a country hit by several typhoons annually? Government efforts conspicuously missing despite repeated pleas from people trapped and stranded by flash floods?

What if an earthquake occurred tomorrow? It will also be so easy to say: “we did not expect this”. And yet, the NDCC has a National Calamity and Disaster Preparedness Plan.

The National Calamity And Disaster Preparedness Plan (NDCPP)

Perhaps the NDCC Chairman can be reminded of the NDCPP’s Introductory Statement that reads:

“The Philippines, being in the so-called Circum-Pacific belt of fire and typhoon, has always been subjected to constant disasters and calamities. The great ocean and seas around her … also serve as the spawning areas of destructive typhoons and monsoons. In whatever part of the country we are located, the possibility of our experiencing the gloom and the stark reality of disasters such as floods, typhoons, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, drought, flashflood and man-made disasters such as land, air and sea disasters, civil strife armed conflict, etc., their resultant toll in lives and properties, is always present ...” [emphasis supplied]

You can speak of disastrous typhoons and floods in your National Calamity and Disaster Preparedness Plan yet be shocked to immobility when it does occur?

NDCC Functions

Or maybe the Chairman can be made to re-visit the functions of the NDCC:

“At the national level, the NDCC serves as the President’s adviser on disaster preparedness programs, disaster operations and rehabilitation efforts undertaken by the government and the private sector. It acts as the top coordinator of all disaster management and the highest allocator of resources in the country to support the efforts of the lower DCC level. In the discharge of its functions, the NDCC utilizes the facilities and services of the Office of Civil Defense as its operating arm.” [emphasis supplied]

Your organization’s stated function is to prepare for and operate during disasters yet you do the exact opposite?

NDCC Chairman’s Message

Or maybe the Chairman can be shown his own message on the NDCC website:

“The development of this website is in line with the NDCC's vision of "A Prepared Population and A Safe Nation." This website aims to be an effective tool in information management in support of the implementation of our country's programs in the areas of disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and rehabilitation. While our country's system covers the entire spectrum of disaster management, let me emphasize that mitigation and preparedness remains to be the most effective strategies in minimizing the adverse effects of both natural and man-made hazards.” [emphasis supplied]

Lip service. What else?

Its one thing to suffer from a typhoon, even flash floods. The whole world is suffering from the effects of climate change. But it is revealing of the kind of government we have when the immediate rescue efforts and emergency help to disaster victims are provided only by their fellow citizens and not by their government.

How many soldiers and boats were actually deployed? How many helicopters did more than just reconnoiter? How many of those stranded on rooftops were the helicopters able to save? How may NDCC meetings were necessary to act? When disaster strikes, it should all be a matter of deployment.

No wonder the more than 750,000 displaced last year as a result of the government’s attempt to relinquish sovereignty in some areas in Mindanao (remember the disaster that was the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD)) talk of hell in describing their situation. The NDCC is in charge of their plight too.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Please Re-Lease Me (The Rent Control Act of 2009)

By Siesta-friendly

Hmmm, where do we start? There’s good news and bad news whether you’re a lessor or lessee. Section 4 of the Act provides that for a period of 1 year from its effectivity (should be around now), there is to be no rent increase for any covered residential unit. And, after such 1-year period until December 31, 20l3, the rent of any covered residential unit continuously occupied by the same lessee shall not be increased by more than 7% annually. In the case of boarding houses, dormitories, rooms and bedspaces offered for rent to students, no rent increase beyond once per year is allowed.

Residential Units Covered

A covered residential unit is any residential dwelling. Under Section 3 of the Act, it may be an apartment, house and/or land on which another’s dwelling is located and used for residential purposes and shall include not only buildings, part or units thereof used solely as dwelling places, boarding houses, dormitories, rooms and bedspaces offered for rent by their owners, except motels, motel rooms, hotels, hotel rooms, but also those used for home industries, retail stores or other business purposes if the owner thereof and his/her family actually live therein and use it principally for dwelling purposes.

Plus, a covered residential unit must have a total monthly rent ranging from P1.00 to P10,000.00 if in the National Capital Region and other highly urbanized cities, or ranging from P1.00 to P5,000.00 for all other areas. (Section 5) The same section inexplicably goes on to state that it is “without prejudice to existing contracts.” It would seem that to escape the law’s application, the landowner need only increase the rent. And the law affords no relief for those who are already paying high rentals.

Naturally, any rent-to-own agreement for the transfer of ownership of the leased premises in favor of the lessee is exempt from coverage. (Section 11)

Rent Payments

Section 7 requires rent to be paid in advance within the first 5 days of every current month or the beginning of the lease agreement unless the contract of lease provides for a later date of payment. The lessor cannot demand more than 1 month advanced rent.

Nor can lessor demand more than two 2 months deposit which shall be kept in a bank under the lessor's account name for the duration of the lease contract. Any and all accrued interest thereon shall be returned to the lessee at the end of the lease contract. But if the lessee fails to settle rent, electric, telephone, water or such other utility bills or destroys any house components and accessories, the deposits and interests therein shall be forfeited in favor of the lessor in the amount commensurate to the pecuniary damage done by the lessee.

Other Prohibitions

Under Section 8, the assignment of lease or the subleasing of the whole or any portion of the leased premises, including the acceptance of boarders or bedspacers, without the written consent of the owner/lessor is prohibited.

Under Section 10, no lessor or his successor-in-interest may eject the lessee on the ground that the leased premises have been sold or mortgaged to a third person regardless of whether the lease or mortgage is registered or not.


Section 9 lists the grounds for ejectment:

  1. Assignment of lease or subleasing of leased premises in whole or in part, including the acceptance of boarders or bedspacers, without the owner/lessor’s written consent;

  1. 3 months arrears in rent. In the case of refusal by the lessor to accept payment of the rent agreed upon, the lessee may either deposit, by way of consignation, the amount in court, or with the city or municipal treasurer, as the case may be, or barangay chairman, or in a bank in the name of and with notice to the lessor, within 1 month after lessor’s refusal to accept payment.

The lessee shall thereafter deposit the rent within 10 days of every current month. Failure to deposit the rent for 3 months shall be a ground for ejectment.

The lessor, upon authority of the court in case of consignation or upon joint affidavit by him and the lessee to be submitted to the city or municipal treasurer or barangay chairman or to the bank where deposit was made, as the case may be, shall be allowed to withdraw the deposits;

  1. The legitimate need of the owner/lessor to repossess the property for own use or for the use of any immediate family member as a residential unit but the lease for a definite period must have already expired. You must stand by your contract.

The lessor is required to give formal notice of the intention to repossess the property 3 months in advance. And the owner/lessor is prohibited from leasing the residential unit or allowing its use by a third party for a period of at least 1 year from the time of repossession;

  1. The lessor’s need to make necessary repairs of the leased premises which is the subject of an existing order of condemnation by appropriate authorities concerned in order to make the said premises safe and habitable. After said repair, the lessee ejected shall be given first preference to lease the same premises. The new rent shall be reasonably commensurate with the expenses incurred for the repair. And if the residential unit is condemned or completely demolished, the lease of the new building will no longer be subject to the first preference rule in favor of lessee; and

  1. Expiration of the lease contract.

Civil Code provisions still apply

Provisions of the Civil Code and the Rules of Court on lease contracts, insofar as they are not in conflict with the provisions of the Act shall apply. (Section 12)


Section 19 states that the Act shall take effect beginning 15 days after its complete publication in at least 2 newspapers of general circulation. (SEC. 19) The Act was approved on July 14, 2009.

Read the Full Text of R.A. 9653 on the House of Representatives’ website.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Live to tell: The Witness Protection Program

By Obiter07

Just last week, a witness to a double-murder was killed as he was set to testify.[1] One wonders what he was doing out in the open, considering how powerful the people he was set to witness against are. We do have laws on witness protection which he should have been made a part of.

Admission into the Program

REPUBLIC ACT NO. 6981 is the "Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act" which is to be implemented by the Department of Justice (Section 2). Witnesses in criminal cases or in legislative investigations may be admitted to the program. Noteworthy is the fact that police officers cannot be admitted to the program but their families can be:

“SECTION 3. Admission into the Program. — Any person who has witnessed or has knowledge or information on the commission of a crime and has testified or is testifying or about to testify before any judicial or quasi-judicial body, or before any investigating authority, may be admitted into the Program:

Provided, That:

a) The offense in which his testimony will be used is a grave felony as defined under the Revised Penal Code, or its equivalent under special laws;

b) His testimony can be substantially corroborated in its material points;

c) He or any member of his family within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity is subjected to threats to his life or bodily injury or there is a likelihood that he will be killed, forced, intimidated, harassed or corrupted to prevent him from testifying, or to testify falsely, or evasively, because or on account of his testimony; and

d) He is not a law enforcement officer, even if he would be testifying against the other law enforcement officers. In such a case, only the immediate members of his family may avail themselves of the protection provided for under this Act. [underline supplied]

If the Department, after examination of said applicant and other relevant facts, is convinced that the requirements … have been complied with, it shall admit said applicant to the Program, require said witness to execute a sworn statement detailing his knowledge or information on the commission of the crime, and thereafter issue the proper certification …

SECTION 4. Witness in Legislative Investigations. — In case of legislative investigations in aid of legislation, a witness, with his express consent, may be admitted into the Program upon the recommendation of the legislative committee where his testimony is needed when in its judgment there is pressing necessity therefor: Provided, That such recommendation is approved by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case may be.”

A prospective witness is required to execute an agreement setting forth his responsibility to testify, avoid crimes, take necessary precautions, comply with legal obligations and judgments, cooperate and inform the authorities of his current activities and address (Section 5). He can be discharged from the Program for breach thereof upon notice (Section 6). Admission to the Program is, of course, confidential (Section 7).

Program Rights and Benefits

What does the witness get? He can get housing, relocation, a new entity, and even paid leaves on top of security of tenure. Section 8 provides:

SECTION 8. Rights and Benefits. — The witness shall have the following rights and benefits:

a) To have a secure housing facility until he has testified or until the threat, intimidation or harassment disappears or is reduced to a manageable or tolerable level. When the circumstances warrant, the Witness shall be entitled to relocation and/or change of personal identity .... This right may be extended to any member of the family of the Witness within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity (i.e., including the witness’ grandparents and uncles and aunts).

b) The Department shall, whenever practicable, assist the Witness in obtaining a means of livelihood. The Witness relocated … shall be entitled to a financial assistance … for his support and that of his family in such amount and for such duration as the Department shall determine.

c) In no case shall the Witness be removed from or demoted in work because or on account of his absences due to his attendance before any judicial or quasi-judicial body or investigating authority, including legislative investigations in aid of legislation, in going thereto and in coming therefrom: Provided, That his employer is notified through a certification issued by the Department, within a period of thirty (30) days from the date when the Witness last reported for work: Provided, further, That in the case of prolonged transfer or permanent relocation, the employer shall have the option to remove the Witness from employment after securing clearance from the Department upon the recommendation of the Department of Labor and Employment.

d) Any Witness who failed to report for work because of witness duty shall be paid his equivalent salaries or wages corresponding to the number of days of absence occasioned by the Program …

e) To be provided with reasonable traveling expenses and subsistence allowance … in such amount as the Department may determine for his attendance in the court, body or authority where his testimony is required, as well as conferences and interviews with prosecutors or investigating officers.

e) To be provided with free medical treatment, hospitalization and medicines for any injury or illness incurred or suffered by him because of witness duty ….

f) If a Witness is killed, because of his participation in the Program, his heirs shall be entitled to a burial benefit of not less than … P10,000.00 … exclusive of any other similar benefits he may be entitled to under other existing laws.

g) In case of death or permanent incapacity, his minor or dependent children shall be entitled to free education, from primary to college level in any state, or private school, college or university as may be determined by the Department, as long as they shall have qualified thereto.

One can ask though, is there any other tolerable or manageable level of threat that is less than zero?

State Witness under the Program

How do you get to be state witness and be eligible for the Program? With the exception of the grave felony offense, the Program conditions below are exactly the same as those required of would-be state witnesses under the Rules of Court:

SECTION 10. State Witness. — Any person who has participated in the commission of a crime and desires to be a witness for the State, can apply and, if qualified … shall be admitted into the Program whenever the following circumstances are present:

a) the offense in which his testimony will be used is a grave felony as defined under the Revised Penal Code or its equivalent under special laws;

b) there is absolute necessity for his testimony;

c) there is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed:

d) his testimony can be substantially corroborated on its material points;

e) he does not appear to be most guilty; and

f) he has not at any time been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.

Before admission, he is to execute a sworn statement “describing in detail the manner in which the offense was committed and his participation therein.” If the DOJ is satisfied, he can be admitted to the program but if denied, his sworn statement “shall not be admissible in evidence, except for impeachment purposes (Section 11).”

Upon admission, the prosecutor is required not to include the witness in the criminal complaint or information or to petition for his discharge as state witness. Admission entitles him to immunity from criminal prosecution for the offense in which testimony is to be used (Section 12). He is not freed from his participation in any other crime by virtue of his testimony. He is liable for contempt if he fails to testify. If he falsely or evasively testifies, he can be prosecuted for perjury. His immunity may also be removed and his enjoyment of rights under the Act terminated (Section 13). Harassment of witnesses is punishable by a fine of P3,000 or imprisonment of not less than six (6) months but not more than one year (Section 17).

How long can you remain protected? The law is not so clear on this but the proceedings in which the witness is to testify should, as much as possible, be finished within 3 months from filing (Section 9). However, this is not an absolute requirement. It would seen that being a state witness is almost akin to being a criminal on the run, watching your back all the time, and changing your routine. Only this time, you are not watching out against the police but your fellow former comrade criminals.

Pointing fingers is not easy especially when you share the burden of guilt. But if there is no other way to get justice, the law allows the use of participants to the crime, to at least get the most guilty. To get someone behind bars, another criminal may have to go free and live on the public’s tab if need be.

Related Post

Singing for your life (Turning State’s Witness)

[1] Bordadora, Witness in Dacer case killed, Philippine Daily Inquirer, First Posted 15:06:00 09/02/2009.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Truth or consequence: Filing of Statement of Assets and Liabilities

By Obiter07

We have heard about the obligation of public officials to file a statement of assets and liabilities. Now, a sitting congressman (like a true son of the First Couple) is facing questions about assets he allegedly has in the United States and which he failed to declare. They have faced similar charges before and it appears to run in the family: having to face allegations of inappropriate and possibly illegal acquisitions abroad. What does the law require anyway?

The law on this is pretty clear, or at least it appears to be so before someone is actually accused of a violation.

The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act

Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, requires that a public officer file his statement of assets and liabilities as follows:

“SEC. 7. Statement of Assets and Liabilities. — Every public officer, within thirty days after assuming office and, thereafter, on or before the fifteenth day of April following the close of every calendar year, as well as upon the expiration of his term of office, or upon his resignation or separation from office, shall prepare and file with the office of the corresponding Department Head, or in the case of Head of Department or Chief of an independent office, with the Office of the President, a true, detailed and sworn statement of assets and liabilities, including a statement of the amounts and sources of his income, the amounts of his personal and family expenses and the amount of income taxes paid for the next preceding calendar year: Provided, That public officers assuming office less than two months before the end of the calendar year, may file their first statement or before the fifteenth day of April following the close of said calendar year.” [Underscoring supplied]

The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees

There is a similar and more detailed requirement in Republic Act No. 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees:

“SEC. 8. Statements and Disclosure. — Public officials and employees have an obligation to accomplish and submit declarations under oath of, and the public has the right to know, their assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests including those of their spouses and of unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their households. [Underscoring supplied]

(A) Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Financial Disclosure. — All public officials and employees, except those who serve in an honorary capacity, laborers and casual or temporary workers, shall file under oath their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth and the Disclosure of Business Interests and Financial Connections and those of their spouses and unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their households.

The two documents shall contain information on the following:

(a) real property, its improvements, acquisition costs, assessed value and current fair market value;

(b) personal property and acquisition cost;

(c) all other assets such as investments, cash on hand or in banks, stocks, bonds, and the like;

(d) liabilities; and

(e) all business interests and financial connections.


All public officials and employees required under this section to file the aforestated documents shall also execute within thirty (30) days from the date of their assumption of office, the necessary authority in favor of the Ombudsman to obtain from all appropriate government agencies, including the Bureau of Internal Revenue, such documents as may show their liabilities, net worth, and also their business interests and financial connections in previous years, including, if possible the year when they first assumed any office in the government.”

Disclosure of the business interests and financial connections of public officials and employees are made pursuant to Section 1(a)(2), Rule VII of the Rules implementing R.A. No. 6713 which states:

“(2) The Disclosure of Business Interests and Financial Connections shall contain information on any existing interests in, or any existing connections with, any business enterprises or entities, whether as proprietor, investor, promoter, partner, shareholder, officer, managing director, executive, creditor, lawyer, legal consultant or adviser, financial or business consultant, accountant, auditor, and the like, the names and addresses of the business enterprises or entities, the dates when such interests or connections were established, and such other details as will show the nature of the interests or connections.”

Decided Cases

The Supreme Court has found that the requirement for such statements is a means to prevent corruption and unexplained wealth. It quoted the succeeding section of R.A. 3019 thus:

“Sec. 8. Prima Facie Evidence of and Dismissal Due to Unexplained Wealth. — If in accordance with the provisions of Republic Act Numbered One Thousand Three Hundred Seventy-Nine, a public official has been found to have acquired during his incumbency, whether in his name or in the name of other persons, an amount of property and/or money manifestly out of proportion to his salary and to his other lawful income, that fact shall be ground for dismissal or removal. Properties in the name of the spouse and dependents of such public official may be taken into consideration, when their acquisition through legitimate means cannot be satisfactorily shown. Bank deposits in the name of or manifestly excessive expenditures incurred by the public official, his spouse or any of their dependents including but not limited to activities in any club or association or any ostentatious display of wealth including frequent travel abroad of a non-official character by any public official when such activities entail expenses evidently out of proportion to legitimate income, shall likewise be taken into consideration in the enforcement of this Section, notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary. The circumstances hereinabove mentioned shall constitute valid ground for the administrative suspension of the public official concerned for an indefinite period until the investigation of the unexplained wealth is completed.

Section 8 above, speaks of unlawful acquisition of wealth, the evil sought to be suppressed and avoided, and Section 7, which mandates full disclosure of wealth in the SALN, is a means of preventing said evil and is aimed particularly at curtailing and minimizing the opportunities for official corruption and maintaining a standard of honesty in the public service. "Unexplained" matter normally results from "non-disclosure" or concealment of vital facts. SALN, which all public officials and employees are mandated to file, are the means to achieve the policy of accountability of all public officers and employees in the government. By the SALN, the public are able to monitor movement in the fortune of a public official; it is a valid check and balance mechanism to verify undisclosed properties and wealth. THE OMBUDSMAN, et al. vs. VALEROSO, [G.R. No. 167828. April 2, 2007.] (Underscoring supplied)

Unfortunately, the courts have not adhered to a strict and literal interpretation of what the law requires. Mere negligence can be claimed as a defense. In one case where the accused was charged of gross misconduct and dishonesty for failing to comply with Section 7 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Section 8 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, it was held:

Negligence is the omission of the diligence which is required by the nature of the obligation and corresponds with the circumstances of the persons, of the time and of the place. In the case of public officials, there is negligence when there is a breach of duty or failure to perform the obligation, and there is gross negligence when a breach of duty is flagrant and palpable. Both Section 7 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 8 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees require the accomplishment and submission of a true, detailed and sworn statement of assets and liabilities. Petitioner was negligent for failing to comply with his duty to provide a detailed list of his assets and business interests in his SALN. He was also negligent in relying on the family bookkeeper/accountant to fill out his SALN and in signing the same without checking or verifying the entries therein. Petitioner's negligence, though, is only simple and not gross, in the absence of bad faith or the intent to mislead or deceive on his part, and in consideration of the fact that his SALNs actually disclose the full extent of his assets and the fact that he and his wife had other business interests. PLEYTO vs. PNP-CIDG, [G.R. No. 169982. November 23, 2007.].”

The Sandiganbayan has recently acquitted a general from a charge of perjury based on the SALN which he filed. It gave credence to his defense that it was a good faith error on his part when he failed to itemize the three (3) vehicles which he owned in the statement subject of the complaint. Hence, the amount that he placed there could have related to any one of them. And since the other two (2) were owned with his wife, the failure of the AFP to provide a form which required him to include conjugal properties as part of his declaration absolved him from any wrongdoing [Punongbayan, “Former AFP comptroller acquitted of perjury” (The Philippine Star) Updated June 19, 2009 12:00AM,].

The pressing need to curtail corruption must take priority in how the SALN is evaluated. The SALN’s purpose of detailing the public officials’ (growing) wealth must not be belittled by accepting claims of negligence. If they can’t be subject to perjury for “mistakes” in their SALNs, what good is there in requiring the SALN?

It does seem tricky, if you look at the statement required with a view to hide and to obfuscate. But in reality, it is as simple as telling the whole truth and nothing but. It does not seem too much to ask of our public servants.