MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) again refused to appear before the House of Representatives Justice Committee in connection with two pending bills regarding the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF).
In a letter to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno begged off from the hearing set by the committee, citing two pending motions for reconsideration (MRs) on the high court's ruling declaring unconstitutional the Aquino administration's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Sereno said the DAP ruling tackles national budget practices, which makes it likely for committee members to tackle issues in relation to the pending MRs, one of which was filed by the House of Representatives itself.
"In order to preserve judicial independence, and the integrity of the ongoing deliberations on the two cases, may I request on behalf of the Supreme Court En Banc, that until the motions for reconsideration are resolved, no Member (Justice), official or employee of the Judiciary be involved in the Committee on Justice in the proceedings on House Bills No. 4690 and 4738 regarding the Judiciary Development Fund.
"I make this request in light of the questions that have been propounded in the Committee hearing that was held on August 5, 2014, as well as some statements made by several legislators thereafter, including by sponsors of the two bills on the JDF. These could appear to some, to elicit the conclusion that the Supreme Court, with respect to the management of the JDF, has been practicing acts that contradict some of the Court's pronouncements in the above two sets of cases," the letter read.
Sereno defended the high court's usage of the JDF, pointing out that periodic audits by the Commission on Audit (COA) on the JDF have not led to any disallowances.
"Since I assumed office, the COA has not disallowed any expense item, and neither has it found any fraud or irregularity with respect to the management of the Fund. That may also be true for the time before then.
"Until recently, when some legislators raised questions on the JDF, I have received absolutely no complaint, verbal or written, on how the JDF is being managed," the letter read.
The JDF was established by Presidential Decree No. 1949 on July 18, 1984 to support the fiscal independence of the judiciary enshrined in the Constitution.