POSTSCRIPT / January 31, 2012 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Let him with an honest SALN cast first stone

CLEAN HANDS: Public pressure should be exerted on senator-jurors and congressman-prosecutors in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona to publish their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, as well as their Income Tax Returns, since they assumed office.

Then let him with an honest SALN and ITR cast the first stone.

For them to come clean at this early stage of the trial will promote greater respect for the accusers and judges as well as for the ongoing impeachment process.

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FAIRNESS: Human nature the way it is, it is not far-fetched for the extended jury that is the general public to demand assurance that the persons accusing and those sitting in judgment do not suffer from the same infirmities for which the Chief Justice is being pilloried.

Specifically, how can anyone who has not filed or disclosed his SALN as required by the Constitution come to the impeachment court to accuse the Chief Justice of such failure under the second article of impeachment?

And how can senator-jurors weigh with fairness, and make decision on, the accusations if they themselves have not filed their own SALNs?

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ACCOUNTABILITY: The disclosure of SALNs as mandated under Section 17, Article XI, of the Constitution, is not an empty exercise. The intention may be gleaned from Section 1 which says: “Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”

For the benefit of non-lawyers, we recall Section 17 which talks of the filing (submission) and the disclosure of SALNs: “A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities, and net worth. In the case of the President, the Vice President, the Members of the Cabinet, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Commissions and other constitutional offices, and officers of the armed forces with general or flag rank, the declaration shall be disclosed to the public in the manner provided by law.”

We presume that the senators and congressmen concerned have filed their SALNs as required, but they would help clear the air if they made a public disclosure of their SALNs.

In the same spirit and for the same reason, we suggest that senators and the congressmen also voluntarily disclose or authorize the disclosure of their Income Tax Returns.

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CYBER CRIMES: We have often complained that our laws governing activities in cyberspace have not been able to keep up with technological advances in the field to the extent that certain acts inimical to private rights and public interests go unpunished.

Some of these acts include online theft, fraud, hacking, cyber-squatting and child pornography — prosecution of which is hampered by insufficient laws.

One concern among us in mass communication is the lack of accountability of authors or sources of information that find its way into cyberspace such as in social electronic media.

Many times, victims of what would normally be libelous assertions in social media are at a loss as to how to sue because the authors hide behind cryptic usernames and aliases.

It also appears to some people transacting business, such as the buying or selling of goods, via the Internet, that there are not enough laws protecting the public.

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ANGARA BILL: Comes now Sen. Edgardo J. Angara announcing the approval on third reading by the Senate of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Senate Bill 2796). He said this assures users of a safer cyberspace, assuming the bill will ultimately be enacted into law.

The bill, filed by Angara as chair of the committee on science and technology, seeks to establish a legal framework for the investigation, apprehension and prosecution of cyber criminals.

He said its approval by the Congressional Commission on Science and Technology and Engineering (COMSTE) “sends out a clear message that the Philippines is taking decisive steps in safeguarding its digital space.”

The measure sets aside P50 million for its implementation. It also creates new agencies such as the Office of Cybercrime under the Department of Justice, a National Cyber Security Center under the Information and Communications Technology Office of the Department of Science and Technology, and a National Cybersecurity Coordinating Council under the Office of the President.

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PAT’S SIDE: In reaction to our Postscript of Jan. 29 citing obstacles being encountered by the administration’s renewable energy program, we received an email from Nagisa Aragon Kazami, identifying himself as a nephew of former Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas.

Kazami said: “Pat Sto. Tomas supports the government’s move for renewable energy as indigenous and power sources for the country. She has not been involved in any effort or activity as mentioned in your column because her area has always been on overseas employment and civil service.

“Mrs. Sto. Tomas at one point did consulting work with Mr. Popo Lotilla which involved reorganizing his supported office called PEMSEA. At no given time has Mrs. Sto. Tomas been involved with renewable energy programs.”

He added that Sto. Tomas is now in the United States.

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ERRATUM: In the same column, we reported on the crowning last Friday of John Manalili as Pampanga’s newest poet laureate in ceremonies coinciding with the celebration of the 145th birth anniversary of Juan Crisostomo Soto (Crissot), the father of Capampangan literature.

We apologize for two errors in our account: John Manalili is 59, not 40, years old; and his middle initial is “S”, not “C”. He is the Director of the Bureau of Communications Services and is a trustee of the Campampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI).

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 31, 2012)

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