Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta defended the High Tribunal’s restriction of public access to the Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) of magistrates.

diosdadp - Why public can’t access SALN of magistrates
Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta (FACEBOOK / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“We cannot release the SALN because there are matters there that are confidential in nature,” Peralta said during an online press briefing.

The Chief Justice said that the SALN contains information like the addresses of judges and their family members which could be used by parties in influencing the decision-making of cases.

“You can just imagine ‘yung mga judges na nagdecide ng cases against somebody (What might happen to judges who decided on cases against somebody),” he said.

Because of this, Peralta said the SC has implemented guidelines which restricts public access to SALNs of magistrates.

“We came up with the guidelines that we can only release ‘yung summary,” the Chief Justice said.

Last September, the SC denied the requests of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and lawyer Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon for copies of the SALN of SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

Gadon has filed a letter of appeal to the SC insisting that it should release Leonen’s SALN since the magistrate has allegedly skipped the filing of SALNs when Leonen was still teaching at the University of the Philippines (UP).

In a letter addressed to SC Clerk of Court Edgardo Aricheta, Gadon said “the right of any citizen for access on SALNs is clearly provided under the law.”

“With due respect to the Supreme Court, the denial only invites suspicion among the public that the Supreme Court is hiding something in so far as the SALNs of AJ Marvic Leonen are concerned and that it cannot also escape public suspicion that the Supreme Court is giving AJ Marvic Leonen a special treatment and protection which I hope is not true,” the lawyer warned.

Gadon pointed out “there is no lawful nor valid reason why my request for the certified copies of the SALNs of AJ Marvic Leonen cannot be granted.”

“The Supreme Court granted the same request in the case of Atty. Maria Lourdes Sereno hence it should be granted in the instant request for SALNs of AJ Marvic Leonen,” he reminded.

Prior to Sereno’s ouster in 2018 as chief justice, Gadon was able to secure from the High Tribunal copies of her SALNs.

Sereno was ousted as Chief Justice in 2018 after the SC granted the quo warranto petition of the OSG which sought to invalidate her appointment at the High Tribunal over violations in skipping the filing of her SALNs when she was still a law professor at the University of the Philippines (UP).

“If Atty. Lourdes Sereno was ousted from the Supreme Court due to lack of integrity as exemplified by her non-filing of SALNs in UP for many years, then there is no reason why the same standard should not be applied to Associate Justice Marvic Leonen,” said Gadon who also alleged that Leonen had skipped in the filing of SALNs when he was still a UP law professor.

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