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SC defends JDF

/ 06:03 PM January 22, 2015

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court has defended the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) saying it is what they use to augment the scant resources of the Judiciary.

This is the first time that the high court has spoken as a collegial body in defending the JDF.

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“The entire budget for the judiciary, however, does not only come from the national government. The Constitution grants fiscal autonomy to the Judiciary to maintain its independence. Courts therefore must also be accountable with its own budget,” the high court said in a ruling dismissing the petition filed by a certain Rolly Mijares.

Mijares in his petition wants to compel the high court to exercise its judicial independent and fiscal autonomy against the perceived hostility of Congress.

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At present, there are two pending bills in The House of Representatives seeking to repeal the Presidential Decree 19493 or the law that created the JDF— namely House Bill 4690 which mandates the transfer of the JDF to the Bureau of Treasury and House Bill 4738 which creates the Judicial Support Fund (JSF) in lieu of the JDF which will be under the National Treasury. The House Bills were authored by Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Farinas and Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas, respectively.

Mijares said the House Bills were borne out of spite following the high court’s decision declaring as illegal the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

But the high court in its ruling said Mijares failed to show any of the requisites for mandamus to issue.

“The writ of mandamus will issue when the act sought to be performed is ministerial i.e. it does not require the exercise of judgment. The Court also found that petitioner has not shown how he is entitled to the relief,” the high court said.

In defending the JDF, the high court said “the JDF used to augment the expenses of the judiciary, is regularly account for by this Court on a quarterly basis.” It added that the Judiciary’s financial reports are available to the public on its website.

“These funds, however, are still not enough to meet the expenses of the lower courts and guarantee credible compensation of its personnel. The reality is that halls of justice exist because we rely on the generosity of local government units who provide additional subsidy to our judges.”

“If not, the budget for the construction, repair and rehabilitation of halls of justice is with the Department of Justice (DOJ),” the high court said.

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While they expressed appreciation to Mijares’ concern, the high court said it is better that he goes to Congress.

“There, he may discover the representatives and senators who may have a similar enthusiastic response to truly making the needed investments in the Rule of Law…Court are not constitutionally built to do political lobbying (nor) trained to produce a political statement or a media release,” the high court said.

The JDF came from the docket and other court fees collected by courts nationwide. It was created under Presidential Decree 1949 issued by former president Ferdinand Marcos in 1984 as a special purpose fund 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.

Eighty percent of the JDF shall be utilized to augment the allowances of justices, judges and court employees, while the remaining amount will be used for office supplies and facilities.

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TAGS: Disbursement Acceleration Progam (DAP), Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), Supreme Court
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