SC to return P527-M in special allowances to government coffersBy Tetch Torres-Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has followed Malacanang’s proposal when it ordered the Fiscal Management and Budget Office (FMBO) to turn over to the National Treasury P527.1 million of the Special Allowance for the Judiciary (SAJ) Fund.
In a three-page resolution, the high court ordered Deputy Clerk of Court and FMBO Chief Atty. Corazon G. Ferrer-Flores to remit “to the National Treasury as income of the Government’s General Fund” the P527.1 million at the rate of P43.925 million per month until the entire amount is fully remitted.
“Therefore, as suitably recommended by FMBO Chief Ferrer-Flores, the amount needed for the remittance should be sourced from the Court’s collection for the entire year and the remittance of the amount to the National Treasury should be made on a monthly basis,” the resolution stated.
The high court issued the ruling following clarification from Flores on how Special Provision No. 1-A of the Judiciary under the 2013 General Appropriations Act would affect the SAJ.
The Special provision states that “the allowance granted to justices, judges and all other positions in the Judiciary with the equivalent rank of Justices of the Court 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 SAJ was created under Republic Act 9227 and gives special allowances to justices, judges, and all other positions in the judiciary with the equivalent rank of justices of the Court of Appeals and judges of the Regional Trial Court. The special fund is equal to 100 percent of their respective basic monthly salary specified for their salary grades.
The special allowances are sourced from legal fees collected by the judiciary and from the increases in current fees and new fees which may be imposed by the high court.
Flores proposed that the remittance to the National Treasury be made in tranches because the balance of the SAJ as of Dec. 31, 2012 will be for the payment of the monthly SAJ of incumbent justices, judges and judiciary officials with the equivalent rank of Court of Appeals Justice or Regional Trial Court for the month of January as well as additional allowances of court employees.
“The remaining balance will fall short of the required P527.1 million,” she said adding that the deficiency should be sourced from the court’s collection for the entire year.
But Flores said turning over the SAJ to the national treasury would simplify the keeping of records and the processing of transactions against the SAJ Fund by the Court, considering that the basic monthly salary of incumbent justices, judges and judiciary officials will now come from the DBM.
Last year, Supreme Court Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco and Diosdado Peralta and Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez protested before the Senate and House of Representatives Special Provision No. 1 under the 2013 GAA.
Marquez said the SAJ was provided for under RA 9227 since 2003 to “insulate the Judiciary and maintain its independence.”
He said that under the Constitution, the Judiciary like the Civil Service Commission (CSC), Commission on Audit (COA), Commission on Elections (Comelec), and the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) is guaranteed a “full flexibility to allocate and utilize their resources with the wisdom and dispatch that their needs require.”
Marquez, during the budget hearing added that the Special Provision also violates the agreement signed between Malacañang and organization of judges.
In 2011, Malacañang and four organizations 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 (SSL).
The MOA was signed by four judges associations such as the Philippine Judges Association, Philippine Trial Judges League, Inc., Metropolitan and City Judges Association of the Philippines and Retired Judges Association.