SC: We’ve no discretion over judiciary funds
MANILA, Philippines—The judiciary does not exercise discretion in the use of its special funds, the Supreme Court said on Friday.
The statement came as an indirect response to reported moves in Congress to examine how the Supreme Court uses the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), an allocation decreed by the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos to augment personnel allowances, maintenance and acquisition funds of the judiciary.
Some lawmakers have likened the JDF to pork barrel despite repeated assertions of the judiciary to the contrary.
The JDF has had its share of controversies, including failed moves to impeach former Chief Justice Hilario Davide in 2003 over alleged irregularities in releases of funds.
“There is no discretion on how to spend JDF funds—whether as to amount, percentage or purpose,” Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te said in a post on his personal Twitter account.
Te’s statement was a reiteration of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s assertion in December last year that she was “not given any discretion on how the funds will be used.”
Sereno said the funds existed “for the benefit of the members and personnel of the judiciary to help ensure and guarantee the independence of the judiciary as mandated by the Constitution and public policy, and required by the impartial administration of justice.”
A news report published on Friday quoted Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano as saying that he would request the House committee on appropriations to examine the proposed judiciary budget and the JDF at the start of deliberations on the 2015 budget next month.
Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas was quoted in the same report as saying he would request a review of Presidential Decree No. 1949, which created the JDF.
Their statements came two days after the Supreme Court struck down Malacañang’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), citing breach of Congress’ power of the purse and constitutional provisions on separation of powers.
The Supreme Court entire budget accountability reports (BARs), have been uploaded on the highest tribunal’s website and regularly updated.
Malacañang hailed the move, initiated by then Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, as an “unprecedented disclosure” by the Supreme Court amid calls for transparency and accountability.
Carpio ordered the publication of the BARs amid criticism of the Supreme Court’s lack of financial transparency during the time of Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was ousted for dishonesty in his financial disclosures.
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