MANILA- House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro claimed Monday that access to the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of lawmakers is actually made "easier" by the new restrictions the chamber adopted.
Castro said requesting parties no longer have to go to court in case their SALN request was denied.
"It's easier now because if you are denied, you can go to plenary by way of appeal," he told ANC's "Early Edition."
"You can go directly and request in addition to what is automatically published," he added.
Castro insisted that the new rule adheres to Republic Act 6713 or the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees" which requires government agencies to come up with rules to access SALNs of government workers.
The new House rule requires individual requests and the majority consent of lawmakers before a House member's SALN is released, a move that the opposition finds repressive.
If the request for a SALN is approved, the requesting party has to pay P300 per copy of the SALN.
Castro said the price could still be adjusted and noted that requesting parties may even bring their own paper to lower the amount.
"It might appear to be prohibitive but nonetheless there are ways for this SALN and other documents from the House of Representatives can be released without so much cost," he said. "You can even bring your own bond paper."
While the public has the right to access public records, Castro said the "security" of lawmakers should also be considered.
"The SALN of a congressman may be passed into the hands of unscrupulous people," he said.
"Without proper identification and validation, it may go into the hands of syndicates, swindlers, extortionists, and terrorists," he added.
Malacañang on Monday frowned upon the new House rule, saying it may be violating the constitution.
“Any stringent measure which burdens the people in obtaining public information may not be consistent with transparency and accountability of public officials,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.