DBM hit for judges’ missing pay
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) was criticized at a Senate budget hearing on Thursday for submitting a 2021 budget for the judiciary that did not include allocations for the hazard pay of judges or the salaries of judges at large who are supposed to help ease the judiciary’s infamous case backlog.
According to Court Administrator Midas Marquez, the Supreme Court initially asked for a P55.88-billion budget for 2021, but the DBM listed only P43.54 billion, or P12.34 billion less, under the spending bill.
Among the items that lost funding in the 2021 budget were the salaries of judges at large, who have no permanent salas and are assigned to different areas of the country as the need arises.
The Supreme Court received a budget for 50 judges at large in 2020, but this was not provided for in 2021, Marquez said.
He said the judiciary will no longer insist on the P55.55-billion budget and will forgo the P12.34-billion variance, but urged both the Senate and the House of Representatives for an additional P6.58 billion on top of the P43.54 billion that was allocated by the DBM.
Also removed from the proposed 2021 judiciary budget were the allocations for professional services and the repairs and maintenance of some buildings that Congress had inserted in the 2020 budget, Marquez added.
Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta also said P144 million for the hazard pay of judges was removed from the budget proposal.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon questioned the lack of allocations for their salaries in 2021 and said it was an indication of a lack of diligence in preparing the budget.
“How does the budget [department] expect you to pay these judges that you appoint pursuant to the budget or the General Appropriation Act of 2020 when nothing is provided in 2021?” Drilon said.”
“Again, this is another instance of the lack of diligence in arriving at the budget of the Supreme Court,” he added, joking that the act may be interpreted as “contemptuous” of the judiciary.
He said the judiciary should not have to plead for these funds as “this is a matter of right” and part of their fiscal autonomy.
Drilon reminded the DBM to be careful about reducing salaries.
The Senate would take up the judiciary’s appeal for additional funds that covers the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals, and all first and second level courts across the country, said Sen. Sonny Angara.
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