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Sereno to snub future JDF hearings, cites PDAF, DAP decisions

/ 06:07 PM August 14, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno begged off in attending the lower House hearing over the court’s Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), citing their controversial decisions over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF).

marial lourdes sereno

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. RICHARD A. REYES/INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

In a letter to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Sereno said the Supreme Court will not participate in the lower chamber’s hearings on two bills seeking to amend or abolish the JDF.

This is because of the pending motions for reconsiderations before the SC over its decision striking some practices under the DAP, President Benigno Aquino III’s economic stimulus program.

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“The call for the appearance by the Chief Justice, her representatives and officials of the Supreme Court, to a ‘meeting’ on the JDF by the Committee on Justice, comes on the heels of two decisions by the Supreme Court involving national budget practices and legislation, the PDAF and DAP cases,” Sereno wrote in her letter.

“The DAP cases are now the subject of motions for reconsideration, including one filed by the House of Representatives,” Sereno said.

She said “in order to preserve judicial independence and the integrity of the ongoing deliberations on the two cases, may I request on behalf of the Supreme Court en banc, that until the motions for reconsideration are resolved, no member, official or employee of the Judiciary be involved by the Committee on Justice in the proceedings … regarding the JDF.”

Sereno said there might be a “better time” for the judiciary to participate in the lower Congress hearing over its JDF, long believed as the high court’s pork barrel funds.

“May I therefore humbly suggest that, considering the long history of the JDF, there might be a better time for the participation by the judiciary in the congressional proceedings involving the JDF,” Sereno said.

Sereno said the judiciary “shares the desire” of the lower chamber to “promote transparency and accountability.”

She added that the SC will participate “as soon as the resolution on the motions for reconsideration becomes final.”

Sereno also defended the JDF, saying the Commission on Audit (COA) has not disallowed any expense item nor seen any irregularities in their fund disbursement.

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“The COA has not informed the Court that there is anything more serious or urgent that the Court needs to address,” Sereno said.

“Until recently, when some legislators raised questions on the JDF, I have received absolutely no complaint, verbal or written, on how the JDF is being managed,” Sereno added.

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