By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
National Privacy Commissioner Raymund Enriquez Liboro has stressed that the Data Privacy Act (DPA) is “not designed to prevent access to personal information under any circumstances” rather, it promotes responsible and lawful use of personal information.
Liboro issued this statement to clarify the requirements of the Data Privacy Law in relation to the alleged censorship in the SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) of some Cabinet officials of the Duterte administration.
A report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism found that 28 Cabinet members censored acquisition costs of personal properties; 24 redacted the exact locations of their real properties; and 23 blacked out the acquisition costs of real properties.
“The DPA is not meant to serve as a subterfuge to prevent the processing and/or disclosure of personal information sanctioned under law,” the NPC Commissioner said.
Liboro cited Sec.11 of the DPA, which states that the processing of personal information shall be allowed, subject to compliance with the requirements of this Act and other laws allowing disclosure of information to the public and adherence to the principles of transparency, legitimate purpose, and proportionality.
In relation to this, Section 8 of RA 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officers and Employees) states that Public officials and employees have an obligation to accomplish and submit declarations under oath of, and the public has the right to know, their assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests including those of their spouses and of unmarried children under 18 years of age living in their households.
These information include: a) real property, its improvements, acquisition costs, assessed value and current fair market value; b) personal property and acquisition cost; c) all other assets such as investments, cash on hand or in banks, stocks, bonds, and the like; d) liabilities, and; e) all business interests and financial connections.
The SALN must also identify and disclose a public official’s relatives in the government in the form, manner and frequency prescribed by the Civil Service Commission.
The SALN is mandated to be publicly available and the public’s right t to know are guaranteed under this law. Information required by RA 6713 pertaining to assets, liabilities and net worth and financial and business interests of the spouse and unmarried children under 18 , cannot be redacted. Other personal information should be disclosed only when necessary for a legitimate purpose.
While an argument can be made that an exhaustive list is not specifically required under RA 6713 except those children who have specific business interests, Liboro also stressed that due consideration must be made on the objectives of Section 8 of RA 6713 in that ” it serves as a lifestyle check measure on government officials as well as the purpose envisioned by the Civil Service Commission in enforcing the law.”
Any information that may not be explicitly required by RA 6713 to be reflected in the SALN should be assessed for its proportionality and necessity to the purposes and objectives of the law, Liboro added.
Liboro then said that CSC may review the fields of the current SALN to ensure that it contains information sanctioned by RA 6713 and other applicable laws.
“Personal information outside this purview should be subjected to the requirements found in the Data Privacy Act specifically applying the principle of proportionality in determining whether to include certain fields of personal data in the current SALN form like: names of minor children and the specific residential address of the filer, when disclosing to the public,” he said.
Liboro also admitted that overall, the country is still taking baby steps when it comes to implementing the Data Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Executive Order.