SC tightens control over P1.35-B Judiciary Development Fund
MANILA — The Supreme Court has refreshed guidelines on the administration of the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), an independent and supplemental source of funds for judges and other employees of the courts.
In a seven-page administrative order dated Dec. 16, 2015, but posted on its website only last week, the high court affirmed its practice of allocating 80 percent of the JDF for cost-of-living allowances (COLA) for judiciary employees and the other 20 percent for the acquisition, repair and maintenance of court facilities and equipment.
The JDF is raised from legal fees, bank interest on JDF deposits, and other sources such as sales of unserviceable equipment and furniture, other fees such as those collected from bar candidates after deducting bar-related expenses.
The quarterly report on the JDF stated that the fund amounted to P1.35 billion at the end of June 2014.
The JDF was created in 1985 through Presidential Decree No. 1949, “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.”
The JDF has become a source of controversy between the executive and judiciary branch, with the later insisting that the fund remain free of Palace and congressional control.
There are two pending bills in Congress, which propose the transfer of the JDF to the national treasury and to rename it the Judiciary Support Fund. Both bills would give the Commission on Audit the authority to examine and report on how the fund is spent.
In its recent post, the high court stressed the JDF cost-of-living allocation should not be diverted to purchase office equipment or upgrade facilities.
The supplemental COLA, it said, would be distributed to court personnel in inverse proportion to to their basic salaries—meaning higher allowances would be granted to those with lower salaries and lower allowances to those with higher salaries.
For the remaining 20-percent of the JDF, its allocation for the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, and the Court of Tax Appeals, would be based on their respective collections, the order said.
Likewise, for the lower courts, the 20 percent allocation for facilities and equipment would be based on the collections by judicial regions, unless otherwise directed by the Chief Justice or the Supreme Court en banc.
The Supreme Court ordered the courts to make timely reports on the status of the JDF and laid down a procedure for monitoring the funds available for equipment and facilities covered by annual procurement and budget plans. SFM
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