Palace eludes questions on redaction of Duterte Cabinet's SALNs

MALACAÑANG on Monday came to the defense of President Rodrigo Duterte's Cabinet officials anew, saying the summarized amounts statement in their Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) are deemed sufficient by the law.

The statement was issued following the September 22 report published by Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), which noted a total of 167 redacted details in the SALNs of some 29 Cabinet members.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella clarified that several items in Cabinet's SALNs were merely "held private" but the sum total of the assets, liabilities and net worth remained unchanged.

Abella maintained that "certain aspects need to be kept private."

"We already clarified that. You know, the redaction is due to the fact that some personal private matters cannot be revealed, for example, we've said names, addresses of family members, stuff like that. That's all," Abella said.

"As far as the redaction is concerned, it simply assumes that certain items are held private and that the actual summarized amounts are given. So that is the wisdom of the law that surrounds it. That is deemed sufficient by the law," he added.

In a report by PCIJ, Duterte's former and current Cabinet members reportedly redacted real and personal properties, asset values, business interests, and liabilities in their SALNs filed last December 31, 2016, or earlier this year.

The PCIJ specifically noted that the acquisition costs or amounts of personal properties in 28 SALNs were blacked out, as well as the exact locations of real properties in 24 SALNs and acquisition costs of real properties in 23 SALNs.

Such redaction, the report said, was a "completely reverse of the policy" of President Rodrigo Duterte's executive order on Freedom of Information, which exercises full public disclosure and transparency.

Abella, however, said Cabinet officials were still transparent as they declared the actual summary in their SALNs, even though the costs of several properties were also redacted.

"The full disclosure has been made regarding the summarized amounts," he said.

Abella, in a statement issued on September 23, said the redaction was consistent with Data Privacy Act that intends to protect individuals’ personal information.

He also insisted that "what was redacted are not information on assets, liabilities, and net worth but personal data like family members, home address, among others."

But in his latest remark, the presidential spokesman said the government might conduct an investigation if there are shady redactions in the SALNs of Duterte’s Cabinet.

u201cIf indeed there is an investigation that needs to be done, then it can be followed through if these things are deemed suspect. So in other words, these disclosures are not meant to be the total disclosure of the thing. In other words, if investigation is needed to be done, it may be done,” Abella said.

On September 23, Communications Assistant Secretary Kristian Ablan said a meeting with agencies designated as "SALN repositories" would be conducted this week to discuss guidelines "that may focus on redaction, revision of the form." (SunStar Philippines)

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