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Business groups denounce proposal to criminalize remarks on public officials’ net worth

CSC.GOV.PH

FOUR BUSINESS groups denounced a proposal of the Ombudsman to criminalize commentaries on the net worth of government officials, highlighting the importance of promoting integrity in government and the value of good governance in attracting investments.

“We… oppose the proposal because the SALN (statement of assets, liabilities and net worth) is part of a system of laws and institutions designed to promote integrity. The Ombudsman is part of that system and should be the first to insist on transparency,” the groups said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Integrity is critical to our society and leaders in government, business, and other sectors, should set the tone,” reads part of the statement signed by the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Integrity Initiative, Judicial Reform Initiative, and the Makati Business Club.

“From a business perspective, a culture and environment of integrity and good governance is more and more needed to attract investment to create jobs.”

The groups pointed out that encouraging investors to undertake ventures in the Philippines requires confidence that “they have a fair chance to succeed… A fair chance that comes from not having to bribe officials themselves just to stay in business.”

“The SALN — and the ability to access and comment on it — is important because bribes often end up in assets,” they said.

They also said the proposed policy would violate freedom of speech.

Ombudsman Samuel R. Martires asked congressmen in a House budget hearing on Sept. 9 to amend the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees with the inclusion of a jail term of at least five years on anyone who comments on a public official’s net worth. — Russell Louis C. Ku

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