DBM wants allowances of justices, judges scrappedBy Tetch Torres
MANILA, Philippines—Malacanañg wants the special allowances of justices and judges be removed as it seeks Congress approval for billions of fees collected by the courts to be turned over to the national treasury.
The proposal is contained in the Department of Budget and Management’s 2013 National Expenditure Program under the General Appropriations Act Special Provision #1 of the Judiciary.
“The allowance granted to justices, judges and all other positions in the Judiciary with the equivalent rank of Justices of the Courts of Appeals and Judges of the Regional Trial court under RA 9227 which have already been fully integrated into their salary increases as of June 1, 2012 shall cease to be granted,” the budget department said.
“Consequently, all balances of the Special Allowance of Judiciary (SAJ) Fund shall revert to the unappropriated surplus of the General Fund,” it said.
Thus, the DBM said legal fees being collected and new fees formerly accruing to the SAJ Fund should now be deposited to the National Treasury as income of the General Fund, it said.
Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said the judiciary would ask for reconsideration, saying the proposal undermines the independence of the judiciary.
“It [the special provision] ran counter to RA 9227 and undermines the independence of the Judiciary,” Marquez said over the phone.
Marquez pointed that under the Constitution, the judiciary like the Civil Service Commission, Commission on Audit, Commission on Elections, and the Office of the Ombudsman, is guaranteed a “full flexibility to allocate and utilize their resources with the wisdom and dispatch that their needs require.”
“It recognizes the power and authority to levy, assess and collect fees, fix rates of compensation not exceeding the highest rates authorized by law for compensation and pay plans of the government and allocate and disburse such sums as may be provided by law or prescribed by them in the course of the discharge of their functions,” he added.
Enacted in 2003, RA 9227 grants justices, judges, and other judiciary positions with an SAJ that is equivalent to 100 percent of their basic monthly salary. The SAJ, which is funded from legal fees and other collections, is treated by the law as an advance implementation of future salary increases.
Last year, Malacañang and four organization of judges nationwide signed a memorandum of agreement allowing the judges to continue receiving their SAJ, which will continue to be separate and distinct from their salary under the Salary Standardization Law.
The associations are the Philippine Judges Association, Philippine Trial Judges League, Inc., Metropolitan and City Judges Association of the Philippines and Retired Judges Association.
Out of the P2.006 trillion proposed budget for next year, the judiciary is asking for a P17.7 billion outlay.