With regard to the issue concerning compliance with the Review and Compliance Procedure provided in R.A. 6713, this Court already held in G.R. 169982 that such procedure cannot limit the authority of the Ombudsman to conduct administrative investigations. R.A. 6770, otherwise known as “The Ombudsman Act of 1989,” intended to vest in the Office of the Ombudsman full administrative disciplinary authority. Here, however, it was the PAGC and the OP, respectively, that conducted the investigation and meted out the penalty of dismissal against Pleyto. Consequently, the ruling in G.R. 169982 in this respect cannot apply.
Actually, nowhere in R.A. 6713 does it say that the Review and Compliance Procedure is a prerequisite to the filing of administrative charges for false declarations or concealments in one’s SALN. Thus:
Section 10. Review and Compliance Procedure. – (a) The designated Committees of both Houses of the Congress shall establish procedures for the review of statements to determine whether said statements which have been submitted on time, are complete, and are in proper form. In the event a determination is made that a statement is not so filed, the appropriate Committee shall so inform the reporting individual and direct him to take the necessary corrective action.
(b) In order to carry out their responsibilities under this Act, the designated Committees of both Houses of Congress shall have the power within their respective jurisdictions, to render any opinion interpreting this Act, in writing, to persons covered by this Act, subject in each instance to the approval by affirmative vote of the majority of the particular House concerned.
The individual to whom an opinion is rendered, and any other individual involved in a similar factual situation, and who, after issuance of the opinion acts in good faith in accordance with it shall not be subject to any sanction provided in this Act.
(c) The heads of other offices shall perform the duties stated in subsections (a) and (b) hereof insofar as their respective offices are concerned, subject to the approval of the Secretary of Justice, in the case of the Executive Department and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, in the case of the Judicial Department.
The provision that gives an impression that the Review and Compliance Procedure is a prerequisite to the filing of an administrative complaint is found in paragraph (b) of Section 10 which states that “The individual to whom an opinion is rendered, and any other individual involved in a similar factual situation, and who, after the issuance of the opinion acts in good faith in accordance with it shall not be subject to any sanction provided in this Act.” This provision must not, however, be read in isolation.
Paragraph (b) concerns the power of the Review and Compliance Committee to interpret the law governing SALNs. It authorizes the Committee to issue interpretative opinions regarding the filing of SALNs. Officers and employees affected by such opinions “as well as” all who are similarly situated may be allowed to correct their SALNs according to that opinion. What the law prohibits is merely the retroactive application of the committee’s opinions. In no way did the law say that a public officer clearly violating R.A. 6713 must first be notified of any concealed or false information in his SALN and allowed to correct the same before he is administratively charged.
Furthermore, the only concern of the Review and Compliance Procedure, as per paragraph (a), is to determine whether the SALNs are complete and in proper form. This means that the SALN contains all the required data, i.e., the public official answered all the questions and filled in all the blanks in his SALN form. If it finds that required information has been omitted, the appropriate Committee shall so inform the official who prepared the SALN and direct him to make the necessary correction.
The Court cannot accept the view that the review required of the Committee refers to the substance of what is stated in the SALN, i.e., the truth and accuracy of the answers stated in it, for the following reasons:
First. Assuring the truth and accuracy of the answers in the SALN is the function of the filer’s oath that to the best of his knowledge and information, the data he provides in it constitutes the true statements of his assets, liabilities, net worth, business interests, and financial connections, including those of his spouse and unmarried children below 18 years of age. Any falsity in the SALN makes him liable for falsification of public documents under Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code.
Second. The law will not require the impossible, namely, that the Committee must ascertain the truth of all the information that the public officer or employee stated or failed to state in his SALNs and remind him of it. The DPWH affirms this fact in its certification below:
This is to certify that this Department issues a memorandum every year reminding its officials and employees to submit their Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Networth (SALN) in compliance with R.A. 6713. Considering that it has approximately 19,000 permanent employees plus a variable number of casual and contractual employees, the Department does not have the resources to review or validate the entries in all the SALNs. Officials and employees are assumed to be accountable for the veracity of the entries considering that the SALNs are under oath.
Indeed, if the Committee knows the truth about the assets, liabilities, and net worth of its department’s employees, there would be no need for the law to require the latter to file their sworn SALNs yearly.
In this case, the PAGC succeeded in discovering the business interest of Pleyto’s wife only after it subpoenaed from the Department of Trade and Industry—Bulacan certified copies of her business interests there. The Heads of Offices do not have the means to compel production of documents in the hands of other government agencies or third persons.