MANILA - Seasoned lawyer and former senator Rene Saguisag called on the Supreme Court to be more transparent and explain how the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) is being spent.
On the heels of the high court’s decision to declare as unconstitutional the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of the government, Saguisag said it is also paramount that the high court open its books in connection with the JDF.
In an interview with radio dzMM on Saturday, Saguisag said: “The high court can correct the errors committed, but the errors of the SC become the law of the land.”
He believes the JDF is already running into the billions since it was created in 1984 under Presidential Decree 1949 by the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, adding that Section 3 provides "that only the Chief Justice will decide on what to do with the billions.”
“Arguably, that’s unconstitutional based on Article 6, sections 24 and 25 of the Constitution, that the funds should pass through the elected officials,” he said, adding that the provisions grant the power of the purse to Congress.
He also noted that only the Makati court looks presentable, compared to the other dilapidated courts across the country. Meanwhile, cases take years before they are resolved.
Saguisag took note of the case of his client Zosimo Mendoza, who was allegedly involved in the killing of Ateneo student Lenny Villa during hazing rites in February 11, 1991.
Mendoza was convicted in Caloocan in 1993. Saguigag went to the Court of Appeals, where he got an acquittal twice.
The Supreme Court gave an acquittal again on February 1, 2012 via a decision penned by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Yet, a motion for reconsideration is being heard, he reported. “This is not just double jeopardy, but multiple jeopardy,” he said.
In San Beda where he is teaching, Saguisag said not one student was able to get at least a quarterly accounting of the JDF.
“They will be guaranteed they would pass the course if they can submit an accounting of the JDF, even if it is only a report for a certain quarter. It’s been years since I’ve been teaching, not one student was able to comply,” he said.
The high court earlier defended the JDF amid plans by some lawmakers to scrutinize what they alleged as a pork barrel of the judiciary.
“There is no discretion on how to spend JDF funds – whether as to amount, percentage or purpose,” SC spokesman Theodore Te said on Twitter.
Sereno also explained that the law requires the judiciary to use 80% of it for cost of living allowances for employees, while the 20% will be used for office equipment and other infrastructure needs.
“Pork is not toxic per se. Up to now, US lawmakers have them,” Saguisag noted, stressing that even the decision of the SC on DAP, penned by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, highlighted the positive effects of the DAP.
This is also the reason why any impeachment case against President Benigno Aquino III will not fly, Saguisag said.
“That was the motive: How the DAP was used to alleviate the plight of our countrymen. What is impeachable there? What is criminal there?” he asked.
He said good faith is always presumed, whereas “it will be the bad faith that needs to be proven.”