Supreme Court SALNs

CHEERS TO the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and Solar News for their joint story that examined the Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) of the Supreme Court (SC) justices, one year after Congress impeached then Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Published last Dec. 9 to 12, PCIJ’s four-part special series showed that based on the contents of their 2011 SALNs, most of the SC justices underdeclared their incomes—which under the law  means salaries plus allowances—with half of them declining to answer questions about these findings.

“Ten of the justices declared only their basic pay—or just a fourth to a third of the total compensation that they collected in 2011—while the remaining four did not even disclose a figure,” according to the PCIJ in its first part (“The wealth of the ‘Gods of Faura’: SC justices among PH’s best paid, allowances, bonuses not in SALNs”). The report said that the justices did not declare as part of their annual incomes in their SALN allowances, benefits, and bonuses.

Quoting a recent Commission on Audit disclosure report, the PCIJ said that the High Court justices “are among the top 200 highest paid, by amount of income they received in 2011, out of 6,489 officials from 864 government agencies (including the Cabinet, the constitutional commissions, the judiciary, and government-owned and —controlled corporations and their subsidiaries) largely because of the fat allowances and bonuses they received.”

The second part of PCIJ’s story reported that for SC justices, on top of hefty salaries, allowances, bonuses and other perks, the rules of taxation for allowances and other monetary perks applied in other government agencies are “rather skewed.” (“The wealth of the ‘Gods of Faura’: Corona’s fat allowances not taxed: Same, same still at SC?”)

The third part looked at the ballooning net worth of justices over the years and  the disparities between the justices’ 2011 SALNs with the previous ones they filed. There are also 12 justices who brought two to six relatives into their  staffs or as consultants in the Supreme Court and the electoral tribunals. (“Rapidly rising net worth shared bliss of SC justices”)

The fourth part looked at how SC justices as well as other public officials flout asset disclosure loss. (“The wealth of the ‘Gods of Faura’: Transparency on ice: Judicial independence or impunity?“)

Solar News, the only news organization to have been given copies of the SALNs since the 1989 SC resolution, aired a five-part special on the wealth of the justices from Dec. 11 to 14.

Solar News looked at Republic Act (RA) 6713 (also known as Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees) authored by the Senate in 1989 which mandated the filing of SALNs and that the contents should be “unconditionally available at anytime, anywhere, to anyone.” (“The SC justices and their wealth”). But in May 1989, despite the clear guidelines in RA 6713, the SC issued a resolution establishing a policy for the release of SALNs of members of the judiciary.

The special reported the responses of the justices to queries regarding their 2011 and previous SALNs. It also examined the companies, properties, and backgrounds of the SC justices based on their 2011 SALNs.