Saturday August 18, 2018

Palace defends redactions in Duterte Cabinet's 2016 SALNs

MEMBERS of President Rodrigo Duterte's Cabinet are committed to transparency and accountability in government but they also have a privacy right to exercise, a Malacañang spokesperson said Saturday.

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) published Friday, September 22, a report on the redactions made in Cabinet members' 2016 Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs). The report said 167 details in Cabinet's SALNs were blotted out.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella defended the Cabinet members concealing of some "sensitive" personal information in their SALNs.

"While we uphold the principle of transparency and accountability in public service, those working in the government, such as members of the Cabinet, still have the right to privacy," the presidential spokesperson said in a statement read over state-run dzRB.

"There are some who may use the sensitive personal information and other data contained in the SALNs to harass people or commit fraud. We, therefore, consider security concerns as valid issues," he added.

The PCIJ said such practice seemed to be a "deviation" from the enforcement of President Rodrigo Duterte's Freedom of Information executive order (FOI EO), which was signed in July 2016 to uphold transparency and full public disclosure of information.

The investigative report noted that the "intense" redactions on the items declared by Duterte's Cabinet in their SALNs released by Malacañang Records Office included "some of the most crucial ones – and at the very heart of the reason why public officials were required by law to file the integrity document in the first place."

It added that details regarding real and personal properties, asset values, business interests, and liabilities were blacked out.

"Some Cabinet officials had filed SALNs earlier, as of June 30, 2016, or upon assumption into office, and these came without any redactions. Neither do pre-2016 SALNs of the same individuals. Their December 2016, as well as of those more recently appointed to their current offices, bore significant redactions, however," the PCIJ said.

"Among the 29 SALNs reviewed by PCIJ, there was a total of 167 redacted details, the entries replaced by long, black, and blotchy rectangles. Twenty-eight of the SALNs had the acquisitions costs or amounts of personal properties blacked out while in 24, the exact locations of real properties were redacted; 23 SALNs had blacked-out acquisition costs of real properties as well," it added.

Abella explained that such redactions were in compliance with Data Privacy Act, which seeks to protect personal information.

"With the Data Privacy Act in full force and effectivity this year, data protection officers are obliged to redact items in SALN to protect the right to privacy of all state workers, including cabinet members. This is consistent with global data protection regulations," he said.

A 2013 memorandum of the Civil Service Commission allows only the shading of one data – the address of the filer – "for purposes of security." (SunStar Philippines)