BELOW is an account of PCIJ’s recent correspondences with Office of the Secretary-General, Legal Affairs Department, and the Records Management Service of the House of Representatives, as well as the offices of Iloilo Rep. Niel C. Tupas Jr., Quezon Rep. Lorenzo R. Tañada III, Marikina Rep. Romero Frederico S. Quimbo, and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo M. Angara.
These entries were culled from PCIJ’s request log, a record of official requests made by PCIJ to government agencies. This log, which is regularly filled out by PCIJ’s researchers-writers, include, among others: nature of the request, the office concerned, the person/s-in-charge, number of calls made, number of letters sent, numbers of persons referred to, remarks or responses made by persons-in-charge of the request, and length of correspondence.
Jan. 12, 2012
PCIJ Research Director Karol Ilagan called the Legal Affairs Department to follow up on its pending letter-requests dated Sept. 6, 2010, Feb. 17, 2011, and Feb. 24, 2011 addressed to Secretary General Marilyn B. Yap. Ilagan also called regarding PCIJ’s letter dated Dec. 19, 2011 to Rep. Tupas, a copy of which had also been sent to the secretary general, and another letter dated Dec. 20, 2011 in response to Director Roberto P. Maling’s advice that PCIJ should send new request forms. (On Jan. 3, 2012, Ilagan had been told by Emily of the secretary general’s office that its letters had already been forwarded to Legal.)
Bles of the Legal Affairs Department told Ilagan to call again because the person concerned (Deputy Secretary) had stepped out.
Jan. 16, 2012
Ilagan made a follow-up call to Bles of Legal. Bles informed her that Legal need not make a recommendation because the Dec. 19, 2011 letter was addressed to Rep. Tupas. As for the previous request, Bles reiterated that Legal had already recommended the approval of PCIJ’s Feb. 24, 2011 letter. This, she said, was sent to the Records Management Service on March 15, 2011. (See story titled “A long, sad search for SALNs”)
On the same day, Ilagan called Emily of the Office of the Secretary General to relay what Bles of Legal had said. Emily told Ilagan to try and call the Records Management Service, and update her, too.
Ilagan then called Atty. Ricardo Bering, director of the Records Management Service and relayed the information provided by Legal. Bering said he cannot recall any approval issued to PCIJ’s requests. Ilagan then asked about the pronouncements made by Secretary General Marilyn B. Yap and Bering in news reports that the SALNs are open to public for inspection.
Bering said that the PCIJ could come to the office and look at and photocopy the SALNs of only five to 10 House members per day. But he said that the SALNs couldn’t be released all at once. Releasing the SALNs in bulk, according to Bering, would defeat the purpose of Office of the Secretary General as the official repository. He described the scenario similar to a requestor requesting copies of all the birth certificates filed with the National Statistics Office.
Ilagan tried to reason with Bering saying that birth certificates are not the same as the SALNs. Bering then said that he would talk to Yap and call Ilagan back.
Jan. 18, 2012
Ilagan called Bering twice but he was unavailable on both occasions.
Feb. 13, 2012
Failing to hear from Bering since Jan. 16, 2012, Ilagan called him on his mobile and asked if she could come to his office on the next day to get copies of the SALNs of the prosecution panel. Ilagan was referring to Bering’s initial notice that photocopying the SALNs of five to 10 House members per day may be allowed. Bering told Ilagan to go to the office at 9 am on Feb. 14. But he noted that his office had yet to receive an approval of PCIJ’s requests.
Feb. 14, 2012
Ilagan and PCIJ junior researcher-writer Rowena F. Caronan went to the Records office to see Bering and to get a copy of the SALN of the members of the prosecution panel. Bering was not at the office.
Ilagan texted Bering about the supposed meeting. Bering replied through SMS, saying: “Ok I may not be able to report for work due to health reason. Anyway, can you go to Bobby Maling of SecGen? Per my staff, wala pa approved request ang pcij. Tnx(.)”
Ilagan and Caronan then went to the secretary general’s office to talk to Director Roberto P. Maling. Referring to PCIJ’s January story, Maling said that he did not deny PCIJ’s requests; he said that PCIJ at the time was requesting for SALNs that were not yet available. Ilagan begged to differ and repeated to Maling what he had specifically told her. Maling commented that Ilagan’s recollection seemed so certain even if her basis was just her memory. Ilagan said that she keeps a request log wherein she records, among others, the responses of government officials and employees every time she makes a follow-up call on requests.
Maling then advised Ilagan to just send new and separate letter-requests for the SALNs of the prosecution panel members and the rest of the members of the House.
Ilagan also asked about how the Office of the Secretary General processes or deals with requests for SALNs. She requested a copy of the memorandum that supposedly provides for the procedures for the issuance of the SALN. Maling replied by saying that it would be better if Ilagan puts her request in writing.
Feb. 16, 2012
Ilagan sent three letters to the Office of the Secretary General following Maling’s instructions: one, a request for the SALNs and personal data sheet or curriculum vitae (PDS/CV) of the members of the prosecution panel; two, a request for the SALNs and PDS/CV vitae of the rest of the members of the House; and, three, a query on how the Office of the Secretary General processes SALN requests and a request for a copy of the memorandum that supposedly provides for the procedures for SALN release.
Copies of these letters were also sent to House Speaker Belmonte, Deputy Speaker Tañada, House Committee on Public Information Chairperson Rep. Ben P. Evardone, and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
On the same day, PCIJ also sent separate requests for a copy of the SALNs of Iloilo Rep. Niel C. Tupas Jr., Quezon Rep. Tañada, Marikina Rep. Romero Frederico S. Quimbo, and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo M. Angara.
In the afternoon, Rep. Tañada sent a copy of his CV and his SALNs as of July 2010 and as of December 2010 SALN, along with a formal reply.
Feb. 20, 2012
PCIJ sent copies of all the Feb. 16, 2012 letters by post.
Feb. 21, 2012
Ilagan called Emily of the secretary general’s office who said that all three letters are with Legal. She advised Ilagan to call in one or two days.
Feb. 23, 2012
Emily of the secretary general’s office told Ilagan to follow up PCIJ’s requests with the Legal Affairs Department. Ilagan then called Bles of Legal. Bles said that Legal had received only two requests from PCIJ.
Ilagan then called Emily to ask about the third letter or the query letter. Emily said that her boss had already talked to Bles’s boss, which she said was probably why Bles didn’t know about the query letter. Emily also said the secretary general’s office is planning to adopt the Civil Service Commission’s guidelines on releasing copies of SALN.
Mar. 7, 2012
Bles of Legal said that there was no feedback yet and that new guidelines were still being drafted. Ilagan also called Maling of the Secretary-General’s office to inform him of the 15-working-days deadline in law, but he was out of the office.
Mar. 12, 2012
A staff employee at the Office of the Secretary General said that the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is being drafted at the Planning and Management Information Service, and that the SOP would then be referred to the Legal Affairs Department.
Ilagan also tried to speak to Maling to ask for the secretary general’s official reply to PCIJ’s letter pertaining to the 15-working day deadline in law. She also wanted to ask Maling the reasons that triggered the revision, the timetable or when the procedure will likely be finalized, and why actions are not taken on PCIJ’s SALN requests considering that these are filed prior to the issuance of the revised procedures. Ilagan called four times, but Maling was either out of the office or busy or engaged in another line on all four occasions.
Mar. 13, 2012
Ilagan called the Office of the Secretary General twice. Maling was again unavailable on both times.
Ilagan also called Bles of Legal. She was told that the requests were still pending approval.
Mar. 14, 2012
Ilagan tried to call Maling, but Lito of the secretary general’s office said he stepped out. Ilagan also asked if Maling was informed about the messages she left for him since last week. Lito said yes.
Individual requests sent to Tupas and Quimbo were still pending approval despite numerous follow-up calls.
The request sent to Angara was supposedly approved. On Feb. 23, Rep. Angara’s office said it will send a copy of the lawmaker’s CV and SALNs on Feb. 27 or 28 by post, but the PCIJ has not yet received any mail. – Karol Ilagan, PCIJ, March 2012