Declaration of interest – but what is the problem? | opinion

In 2019, the PAN put forward a proposal to amend Law No. 52/2019 (Law Approving the Exercise of Functions by Political Officials and High-Level Officials), a law (PJL) aimed at “making the statement to determine affiliation or connection to “discreet” organizations or associations with regard to declarative obligations “. However, the proposed change was limited to providing that the single statement of income, assets and interests should “contain an optional field mentioning affiliation or affiliation with associations or organizations that require their members to make promises can, even if this is negative, guarantee loyalty or which, due to its secrecy, does not guarantee complete transparency about the participation of its members. “

This legislative initiative followed its procedures, several bodies and personalities interested in what it was debating were consulted, it was discussed at a plenary session of the Assembly of the Republic on December 18, 2020 and went to the Transparency Commission for debate in the specialty. In this context, it is up to the other parties to debate the PJL and, if they wish, to contribute to them.

For this reason, in this context and at the moment established by the legislative calendar, the PSD declared that it was involved in the debate on this PJL and presented its own proposal to amend this legislative initiative. The aim of this proposal is to ensure that the initiative presented to us is balanced and fair. To what extent?

With just two suggestions. Easy.

First balance. If it is deemed relevant to know the associative connections of political officials and high-ranking officials, it makes no sense that this possibility is only optional. When this information is relevant because it needs to be mandatory or it doesn’t even make sense to place yourself. This is the first building block of the PSD proposal.

It should be said that in the same vein there were expressed several personalities and entities called to speak. Prof. Prof. Luís de Sousa, PhD and ICS-UL researcher, said: “… this type of declarative, non-tax and facultative obligation is an invitation to indifference on the part of the applicant and can lead to complete obscurity regarding institutional matters that Cast doubt on the liberation or integrity of their behavior ”. Also José Miguel Júdice: “Therefore I defend that the legal solution should not be that of the PJL, a mere faculty, but a clear obligation to disclose whether and when the situation occurs.” In the same sense and with increasing institutional relevance the General Prosecutor’s Office explained: “… Due to its specific functions, it should impose such a duty of declaration on the magistrates of the public prosecutor’s office, which should not only be expressly provided for in the EU law, but also binding (and not optional) character” and also the Portuguese Association of Richter (ASJP): “… in the opinion of ASJP this declaration must be of a mandatory nature and not just optional, otherwise it is irrelevant to the transparency objectives that formed the basis for the approval of Law No. 59/2019”.

In the face of these debates, it is even difficult to understand the hasty and, above all, deeply uninformed criticisms of this initiative.

Then equity. Since the PJL of the PAN had the assumed aim of targeting the associations it described as “discreet”, which does not seem correct or justifiable, the PAN mentions Freemasonry and Opus Dei in the reason for its diploma. Since the goals are being realized, the PSD does not see itself in a potentially stigmatizing identification. The law must be general and abstract and must not be persecuted. It must be aimed at people or organizations that are viewed abstractly and cannot be specifically identified. Therefore, the second main plank of the PSD proposal defends the extension of this mandatory identification to all associative links. It is not up to the legislature to classify associations as discreet or secret, it is a question of indefinite concepts. If associative links may create a conflict of interest, it is important to know all of them, not just those directed at specific organizations.

To attack this proposal, António Lobo Xavier said this week that “the benefits or portisms are inferior to some of these compounds”. I regret that I spoke without knowing the proposal I was talking about because it is precisely for this reason that we believe that the law should not give preliminary thought to associative organizations. In specifying all, all possible conditions are taken into account regardless of their type. Including clubs.

This proposal can of course be criticized, but it cannot cast doubt on its real moralizing intent and, I must say, a defender of the non-stigmatization of the organizations identified in the PJL of the PAN, who refuses to create a law that is determined by it Organizations.

Once here, it is important to recognize where the problem lies, as one asks in the title.

If the holders of political positions and high public positions today already have to publish their entire income with reference to the respective source; the IRS statement; the description of the elements of your stock assets; inherited goods; Real estate assets, quotas, stocks and share capital of companies; Motor vehicles; Securities portfolios as well as current accounts and loans granted; the description of debts to the state or natural or legal persons; The social positions they hold or have held in companies, foundations or associations … In view of this absolute striptease, what is the particular problem when it comes to specifying the associations to which we belong?

I find it really hard to understand.

Even when talking to friends, whenever we intervene in a certain matter and have a special connection to it, we make the previous “declaration of interest”, which does not prevent us from participating, but clearly in front of any special connections we have makes the topic. Not to prevent, but to enable this connection to be checked. This is exactly what you want.

Increase the transparency. Reduce incompatibilities and barriers. It’s a political goal. Lawful. Really. Constructive. This pursues the liberal view of the PSD on public life. It has nothing to do with persecuting people or institutions

And that is the whole point of this issue. The PSD has carried out political intervention in this area to remove barriers to attracting the best to political life. We argue that politics deviates from the path taken of functionalizing the vicarious function. In order to reduce incompatibilities and obstacles, we have to make the connections even more transparent. In order for people to be able to serve the country for only one phase of their lives without creating restrictions and difficulties in their other interests, all these interests must be scrutinized.

Increase the transparency. Reduce incompatibilities and barriers.

It’s a political goal. Lawful. Really. Constructive. This pursues the liberal view of the PSD on public life. It has nothing to do with persecuting people or institutions.

Indeed, it should be emphasized as often as necessary that this statement is only addressed to persons in political and high public positions! It is not addressed to Freemasonry, Opus Dei, or any other body that believes it should keep its members, practices, or congregations secret. Nobody has anything to do with it. If you understand this, you must keep doing it. This diploma is not addressed to these organizations. Only its members who intend to hold political positions or high public positions should explain so.

It seems to me of clarity and justification. Indeed,

As constitutionalist Prof. Jorge Miranda: “It is only a consequence of a general principle of transparency that must dominate political life within the framework of a pluralistic and open democracy in which there is nothing to hide from the public or to hide in public space … And to use a term I usually use, it’s still a requirement of Republican ethics. “

As Prof. Luís de Sousa: “In a preventive logic, transparency about this type of institutional affiliation is justified and was largely defended.”

As defended by the Attorney General (CSMP), this regime should also apply to MP judges: “An obligation resulting from an ethical imperative that makes judges an (added) duty of integrity and transparency guarantees a very desirable one and demanding public / professional status over any suspicion regarding connections and incompatibilities. “

As the ASJP advocates, “In accordance with the principle set out in the Ethical Obligation … the ASJP believes that the declarative obligations of judges must include disclosure of their affiliation with them. The point is to publicly reveal a condition that can abstractly determine the judge’s social perception of impartiality. “

Incidentally, as Mário Martin Guia, former Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Portugal, said: “In the most democratically developed societies, Freemasons have no doubts about manifesting their quality as Freemasons.” Or António Arnaut, former Grand Master of the Lusitanian Grand Orient: “Freemasons must tend to take civic responsibility for their condition. In order to avoid suspicion of Freemasonry, the Freemason must voluntarily assert himself as such. “

In view of this, the difficulties of understanding in view of the criticism to which this legislative initiative has been subjected will be exacerbated. Mediatization does not justify ignorance and unpreparedness.

And in view of all this evidence, however transversely polished, the question that this text brings with it makes even more sense: But where is the problem anyway?

The author writes according to the new orthographic convention

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