The Statements of Assets Liabilities and Networth in some cases are used by crooked individuals for extortion, Ombudsman Samuel Martires said on Saturday while defending his order to stop the conduct of lifestyle checks on public officials and restricting access to SALNs filed at his agency.
“The lifestyle check is a fishing expedition. We look for evidence against the person who is being subjected to our lifestyle check,” Martires told a radio interview.
In a mixture of English and Tagalog, Martires said “According to a report of one of our investigators at the Ombudsman, these (complaints) become source of extortion.”
Appearing at the budget hearing of the Office of the Ombudsman at the House last Tuesday, Martires said he had stopped lifestyle checks on public officials, saying failure in such did not prove that an official was corrupt.
Three weeks earlier, he restricted public access to the SALN of public officials filed at the Office of the Ombudsman.
Republic Act 6713 or Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials mandates disclosure of SALNs to members of the public as long as the one making the request shoulders the cost of reproduction and mailing of the SALN copies.
“There are many victims of lifestyle check and I hope they come out and complain. I do not want to mention names. They know who I am referring to, including the media practitioner gwho used these,” he added.
Martires said he was not protecting any government official in issuing the twin orders.
He added the conduct of lifestyle checks was copied from and anti-corruption office of Hong Kong and there was no Philippine law that mandates the conduct of such checks.
He said the results of such checks were subjective in nature as there was no criteria to determine whether a person had unexplained wealth because the checks were based on estimates almost all of the time.