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Black color of protest in courts

/ 01:48 AM September 25, 2011

It will be a “black” Monday in various courts all over the country as their employees step up their protests against the administration’s plan to reduce the 2012 budget of the judiciary.

The Judiciary Employees Association of the Philippines (Judea) plans to make known its objection to the budget cut by wearing black shirts or armbands on Monday and succeeding Mondays, according to Judea interim president Mar Aguilar, who is with the Sandiganbayan.

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Malacañang, in its budget proposal, reduced the judiciary’s 2012 budget to P13.396 billion and transferred the budget for unfilled positions to the miscellaneous personnel benefit fund which would be under the control of the Office of the President.

A Supreme Court official branded the move a violation of the separation of powers, the court’s fiscal autonomy and the policy of non-reduction of the judiciary’s budget from previous years.

According to Judea, the proposal may be intended to put the judiciary under Malacañang’s thumb. In a statement, the group said this could also be considered interference and part of a move to control the courts, especially after the recent defeat of several Malacañang initiatives in the Supreme Court.

The high tribunal had ruled against Malacañang’s creation of a Truth commission, and recently stopped its plan to postpone elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Judea said there should be absolute judicial independence, and the courts should be allowed to conduct their own affairs.

The budget allocation for the judiciary, a coequal branch of government, should be automatically released, it further said. The court’s budget should also be at least one percent of the total national budget, the group added.

Sen. Joker Arroyo earlier questioned Malacañang’s move to control part of the judiciary’s funds. Arroyo had said that this would give rise to a scenario wherein the Supreme Court would have to beg Malacañang to release its funds every time it appoints a new judge.

President Aquino’s spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda, had justified the judiciary’s budget allocation, saying the judiciary received additional revenues from filing fees.

“I hope the judiciary can shed light on this particular judiciary fund,” he had said.

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Supreme Court spokesperson Midas Marquez had earlier told the House appropriations committee that the judiciary was seeking P27.1 billion for its 2,300 justices and judges and 25,500 court personnel next year, but Malacañang slashed.

He said that in 2007, the judiciary only earned P2.18 billion from filing fees, of which P1.14 billion went to a special allowance under Republic Act No. 9227 and another P1.04 billion to the judiciary development fund under Presidential Decree No. 1949.

The special allowance mandates a 100-percent increase in salaries and allowances of judges and justices but magistrates had complained that this law (RA 9227) had yet to be fully implemented.

Marquez had told the budget committee that a first level municipal judge received barely P25,000 for a monthly salary, while a Supreme Court associate justice received a salary of P40,000.

He lamented that various executive orders giving government employees additional increases in the past years were taken from what was supposed to be the 100-percent increase in their allowances as provided by law.

Marquez said there were 2,200 judges all over the country with more than 600,000 pending cases. The Supreme Court, which has 15 justices, has 6,000 cases pending.

Marquez said the ideal ratio was one judge for every 10,000 population but currently, only one judge was servicing 50,000 constituents.

First posted 12:45 am | Sunday, September 25th, 2011

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TAGS: Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Judea interim president Mar Aguilar, judiciary development fund, Judiciary Employees Association of the Philippines (Judea), judiciary’s 2012 budget, miscellaneous personnel benefit fund, Office of the President, postpone elections, Protests, Supreme Court spokesperson Midas Marquez
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