SALNs are what bookkeepers, accountants and auditors the world over know as the Balance Sheet. However, when you google the acronym SALN, you will be taken to Google search pages with more than 2 million results. The predominant entries will refer to the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN), to salns referring salon entries and to salns which are acronyms of other names and titles.
None of these entries however will lead you to a website which contains only SALN information. Most will be news about the now world famous Impeachment Trial of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. Now for the first time on the internet, we have created a site for SALN information only. Using the Chief Justice’s trial as a backgrounder, we will upload our then running commentaries on what we considered as the major accounting issues that surfaced at that time.
We will point out the mistakes the Chief Justice committed in the preparation of his SALNs and also point out how the Prosecution could have used his own filings against the accused. We will also explain the basic method for submitting a foolproof SALN by ensuring that all the numbers balance (add up) based on generally accepted accounting principles.
The backgrounder and the lessons learned should be sufficient to improve the filing skills of the roughly 1.5 million government employees mandated by law to file annually on or before March 31. Bookkeepers and lawyers of past, present and future filers may also learn a thing or two about avoiding complications which red flag the Government or much worse lead to convictions.
Because of the ongoing investigations of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), we will eventually update our visitors of how the SALNs of those involved could be used to strengthen the cases against them. It is our dream as professionals to prove to the world that SALNs are the new weapons of mass destruction against the growing tide of graft and corruption. They are the best allies of Good Governance. May God bless us all in this work dedicated to His Honor and Glory!
Because of my SALN advocacy, that is in the belief that the SALN law properly implemented can take its place rightfully as the guardian against corrupt government officials, I had taken a very keen interest in the Corona Impeachment Trial to the point of:
- Faithfully watching almost all the live coverages
- Watching replays and related talk shows
- Doing spreadsheet analysis based on unfolding revelations
- Emailing these analyses to friends and others that learn of them
- Attending a few fora and answering queries about my conclusions
- Doing one radio and one TV interview on relevant SALN issues.
This has been the mainstay of my life over the last 5 months to the extent that my entire daily schedule revolved around it. In a week this infamous trial will end but I assure you that my crusade will continue. The high profile status of this case has pointed to the following loose ends which must be tied way after a verdict has been rendered:
· The amendment of the SALN Law itself.
· The revision of the SALN form.
· A SALN infrastructure for red flagging and ultimate conviction.
· A SALN primer
· A SALN website
There is certainly a lot of work in these areas at least for the next four years. In the mean time, I have summarized all my thoughts and writings on this subject to clarify my position on the matter in order to make collaboration with like minded individuals easier.
The Chief Justice had been convicted by 20 Senator Judges for culpable and impeachable violations of the SALN Law. This judgment has reverberated through out the nation most specially among the estimated 1.4 million SALN filers in government service. This sleeping dragon has been awoken and the Filipino people have just found a new champion in its war against graft and corruption in the bureaucracy.
Throughout the course of the trial, I had expressed my concern that the potency of the SALNs was being underutilized to the point where the country could lose a very powerful weapon in the fight against corruption because the prosecutors were oblivious of how to use the data to their advantage for the benefit of the people.
The CJ’s impeachment trial was a classic occasion which brought the SALN prominently into the public consciousness and as such could either deliver it a mortal blow or show it as the people’s new champion. Its fate will depend on whether the SALN can be made to indubitably convict or exonerate the accused.
I was neither for one or the other. My interest was in finding out how efficaciously the SALN Law can be implemented for the good of our country. It remained unclear in accounting and mathematical terms how the SALN itself can and should be used to assure a conviction or absolve the accused. I believed that this could only be done if the lawyers on both sides of the argument were taught how to use it properly and this task begins by interpreting and understanding the accounting entries behind the SALN’s contents.
Let me demystify the math and the accounting therefore and try to show how easy it would be to allow the SALNs to speak for themselves. The prosecution should have simply focused on the justification in the submitted changes in Networth from a year to year basis. After all from a legal standpoint, the only increases or decreases in this account must come from Tax Evidenced Transactions (TETs). Strictly speaking in fact, every entry on this account and even the beginning balance must be established on the basis of TETs.
Any suspected filer, who has already sworn under oath about his financial standing by virtue of filing his SALNs, should be able to explain how his Networth has grown or declined based on all his TETs for each year. In court, the burden of proof is on him to show that all these changes resulted from TETs.
Should this be not indubitably enough to convict, a second line of questioning is to ask the defendant to justify increases in Assets without corresponding increases in Liabilities and/or decreases in Liabilities without corresponding decreases in Assets which in other case are not justified by TETs. Again should the combined impact of the first and second offensives be insufficient for an incontrovertible conviction, the third offensive is to ask the defendant to justify the beginning balance in the very first SALN which he filed. Even this amount must legally be based on TETs, otherwise everyone can potentially set it up in anticipation of substituting illegally acquired wealth to be made possible upon his assumption into an office of trust and power.
The supremacy of this method of prosecution is that the SALN as sworn documents speak for themselves and are the best evidences of what the filer has already attested to wittingly or unwittingly. That being the case, all the prosecution has to do is to present increases in Networth and ask for supporting TETs. Should any remain unsupported, the burden of proving that all these unsupported amounts were legally acquired is immediately on the defendant.
Using this approach, the people will have yet another weapon against blatant corruption in both high and low places in the bureaucracy. In fact it can be made a cornerstone which can effectively stem the growing tide of plunder. Everyone should know how easily he/she can be convicted by their own SALNs – a situation which nobody feared before.
A special SALN Unit can be attached to the Office of the Ombudsman to pursue the flood of cases which is anticipated to arise from this new found friend and knowledge. Manned by bona fide accountants and auditors, this SALN Unit can be made as the processor and repository of all SALN submissions nationwide. It must strongly liaise with the BIR and COMELEC. It may be possible later on to make non-filing of SALNs as a disqualification for seeking public office or assuming a GOCC position.