SC to BIR: We’re not hiding anything

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

A SUPREME Court (SC) official said Thursday that the justices are not shying away from transparency when it comes to their wealth.

In an email, SC spokesperson Theodore Te countered Bureau Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares' statement that the justices were "creating an exception for themselves" after she failed twice to secure copies of the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of the magistrates from 2003 to 2012.

"That members of the media and civil society, including law students, have been able to obtain copies of various SALNs of the justices is proof enough that the SC justices are not hiding anything," Te said.

SALN [1]

SALN [2]

Henares has yet to decide, according to a newspaper report, if she will ask for the documents for the third time.

"The denial of the CIR's (Commissioner of Internal Revenue) request must be contextualised, based on the reasons she has given in her request," Te said.

In her request made public by the SC, the BIR chief said on December 9, 2013 that she will be using the SALNs "for tax investigation purposes" and "in relation to" the reported corruption and influence peddling in the judiciary, which is being linked to a certain Ma'am Arlene.

The Court deferred action on her request on January 14 because her request form was not notarized and it had no photocopy of a government-issued identification card.

The second page of the form that indicates the reason for the request was missing in the copy sent to reporters by Te.

Henares addressed the deficiencies on February 10. Four months later, the SC denied her request "for lack of sufficient basis."

Senator Francis Escudero said Thursday that the BIR should resort to other means to legally obtain copies of various SALNs of the justices.

He said it is the obligation of any public servant, including justices of the Supreme Court, to disclose their financial information.

"Transparency should not be limited to the legislative or the Executive but in the Judiciary as well. We have to acknowledge the importance of transparency," the senator said.

Escudero admitted that the timing of the BIR's requests was malicious since the SC recently declared the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program of the Aquino government as unconstitutional.

The high court's decision was made as basis by some groups to file impeachment cases against President Benigno Aquino III in the House of Representatives.

Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo is the richest in the 15-member High Court last year, with a net worth of P122.21 million.

His wealth grew by more than 12 million from 2012.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's net worth stood at P19 million while Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the most junior member, is the poorest with P1.81 million. (With Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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