By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang defended the redaction of some items in the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) of state workers, saying the censorship is to protect their right to privacy.
This is in reaction to the revelation of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) that a total of 167 redacted details were found in 29 SALNs that they reviewed.
These entries under the acquisition costs or amounts of personal properties, exact locations of real properties, and acquisition costs of real properties, were reportedly replaced by long, black and blotchy rectangles.
These SALNs, included those of Cabinet members and other high-ranking officials, were released by the Malacañang Records Office (MRO) to the PCIJ.
According to Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, while the Executive Branch upholds the principle of transparency and accountability in public service, government workers still have the right to privacy.
“There are some who may use the sensitive personal information and other data contained in the SALNs to harass people or commit fraud. We therefore consider security concerns as valid issues,” Abella said in a statement Saturday morning.
“With the Data Privacy Act in full force and effectivity this year, data protection officers are obliged to redact items in SALN to protect the right to privacy of all state workers, including Cabinet members,” he added.
The Palace official also said the redaction of details in the SALNs is consistent with global data protection regulations.
According to the National Privacy Commission (NPC), the Data Privacy Act adopts generally accepted international principles and standards for personal data protection.
“They safeguard the fundamental human right of every individual to privacy while ensuring free flow of information for innovation, growth, and national development,” NPC’s website stated.
However, the PCIJ said the redaction mocks the Freedom of Information executive order signed by
President Duterte last year.
“The practice – which can only be described as a deviation from the FOI EO’s push for transparency – is apparently new,” the PCIJ said.
“More importantly, the redacted details included some of the most crucial ones – and at the very heart of the reason why public officials were required by law to file the integrity document in the first place,” it added.
“[This is] a practice completely reverse of the policy has been creeping onto some documents requested by the public. The likely tool for the unexpected move: a black marker,” it continued.
The PCIJ said President Duterte’s SALN only had one detail redacted: the President’s address. This is contrary to Duterte’s Cabinet officials whose SALN had more redacted details.
Among Duterte’s Cabinet officials, Presidential Communication Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar’s December 31, 2016 SALN had the most redaction. His SALN reportedly had 10 redacted details.
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