Aquino dared to sign waiver

MANILA — President Benigno Aquino 3rd should set an example of full transparency by signing his own unconditional waiver that would allow government agencies to pry into his bank accounts, a group of lawmakers said on Wednesday.

The challenge was thrown by at least seven lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives who were signatories to the impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Party-list Representatives Teodoro Casiño and Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna, Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis, Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela, Raymond Palatino of Kabataan and Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers—all members of the majority coalition—signed unconditional waivers allowing the Ombudsman to look into their assets and bank accounts for the purpose of investigating any report or complaint against them for graft and corruption.

The Makabayan group’s move hiked the number of lawmakers who signed a waiver on bank accounts to nine. The other two who already signed waivers were Representatives Abigail Ferriol of Kalinga party-list and Kimi Cojuangco of Pangasinan province.

They took on the challenge posed by Corona when he testified last week at the Senate. There, the chief magistrate asked all 188 House members who signed the complaint and Sen. Franklin Drilon to waive the secrecy of their bank deposits.

Senators Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano also challenged all government officials, especially the President, to put premium on transparency by coming out with their own waivers.

In response, the Makabayan bloc said that it is their duty and moral obligation to set an example in complying with the constitutional mandate on public office as a public trust.

“We challenge our fellow officials in government, starting with the President and his Cabinet, our colleagues in the House and the Senate, to do no less. It must be noted that President [Benigno] Aquino [3rd], as well as his Cabinet members, are yet to sign a waiver despite strong public clamor,” the group said in a statement.

“The President and the Cabinet members should lead by example. They should sign the waiver now,” the group stressed.

But Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday turned down the challenge posed by lawmakers to submit a waiver to open their bank accounts.

Enrile said that the submission of a waiver is not necessary since there is already a provision in the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) that authorizes the Office of the Ombudsman to open public officials’ bank accounts if it is deemed necessary in its investigation.

“Every SALN contains a waiver, what more waiver do you want?” Enrile said in an interview over GMA News TV.

When asked if he would also sign a similar waiver, Enrile declined as he described the challenge posed by his colleagues as mere “dramatics.”

“I don’t have to waive, what for? Those are just dramatics,” he said.

Meanwhile, Escudero reiterated his call for his colleagues to enact at the soonest possible time Senate Bill 107, which requires public officials and employees to sign a waiver that will allow the examination of their bank accounts and investments in government bonds.

According to him, the waiver will help the government to recover ill-gotten wealth of government officials and employees who used their position to enrich themselves.

“With the passage of this bill, transparency of the financial standing of the civil servant will serve as a deterrent to graft and corruption,” said Escudero in his explanatory note.

Under the measure, all public officials and employees, except those who serve in an honorary capacity, shall submit with the Office of the Ombudsman a written permission or waiver to look into all deposits of whatever nature with banks or banking institutions, both within and outside the Philippines, including investment bonds issued by the government of the Philippines, its political subdivisions and instrumentalities.

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