Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday, Sept. 23, expressed support to the decision of Ombudsman Samuel Martires to stop conducting lifestyle checks against public officials.
“Indeed a lifestyle check as a stand-alone measure will not conclusively indicate whether a person is engaged in some wrongdoing to enrich himself,” Guevarra said.
Guevarra said he “fully understand where the honorable ombudsman is coming from.”
“A lifestyle check has to be intertwined with a much deeper process of investigating specific acts of corruption or other crimes,” he explained.
“It is meant to strengthen a finding of wrongdoing, as manifested in the lifestyle of the person concerned,” he added.
Guevarra emphasized that “government officials and employees, no matter how well-to-do or wealthy they are, are encouraged to live and project a modest life as public servants.”
He cited that the task force which investigated anomalies at the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is also conducting lifestyle checks of former and current officials of the state health insurance firm.
“Task Force PhilHealth commenced lifestyle checks as an adjunct of the fraud and corruption investigations. This is a continuing joint undertaking,” said Guevarra, who heads the task force which he created pursuant to the directive of President Duterte to probe corrupt activities at PhilHealth.
During the budget deliberations at the House Representatives last Tuesday, Sept. 22, Martires revealed that he has halted the conduct of lifestyle checks among public officials due to vague provisions of Republic Act 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Aside from this, Martires issued a Sept. 1 memorandum which restricts access of statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) of public officials
Martires explained the memorandum circular only pertains to requested SALNs which are on file or in their actual possession, but not to SALNs kept by Congress, Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Office of the President.
“Sa experiencia ng Ombdusman, naging ‘weaponized’ po ang SALN. Ginagamit po ito na means para siraan ang isang tao, o siraan ang isang kalaban sa pulitika (According to the experience of the Ombudsman, SALN has been weaponized. It is being used as means to damage the reputation of a person, or besmirch a political rival.),” he said.