Congress picks at JDF anew

By Paolo Romero, Aurea Calica, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 10 2014 08:02 AM | Updated as of Jul 10 2014 04:38 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The looming congressional probe into the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) could lead to the repeal or amendment of the Marcosian law that created it, House leaders said yesterday.

Iloilo Rep. Neil Tupas, chairman of the House justice committee, and Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said apart from looking into the disbursement of the JDF by the Supreme Court, the chamber would likely look into the need to amend or repeal Presidential Decree No. 1949, which created the fund.

Tupas disclosed that not only has he prepared a resolution to conduct the inquiry, he is also drafting a bill that would either amend or repeal PD 1949 that he said was enacted when the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was acting as head of both the executive and legislative branches of government.

"The pork barrel fund was declared unconstitutional (by the SC) and yet the power to allocate lies with Congress, but this (JDF) is concentrated with the judiciary, and we have not been able to closely monitor its disbursement," Tupas said.

"There are irregularities being reported and complaints as well," he said.

He said the SC would be forced to follow whatever Congress decides to do with the old law.

"If you amend it, of course, the law will change and everybody should follow. The Supreme Court should follow the law," Tupas said.

Barzaga said Congress has the sole power to legislate, which “includes the power to amend, alter or modify any law, including a law providing funds to the Supreme Court.”

He said it was possible that the House would put in “safety nets” in the law to prevent abuse by magistrates.

He said the only protection given to the SC under the law is fiscal autonomy, but the JDF remains subject to audit.

Palace hands off probe

Meanwhile, Malacañang distanced itself from calls to scrutinize the JDF.

Earlier, The STAR reported that the Supreme Court and the judiciary received hundreds of millions in fund realignments from the Palace before it declared the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional two weeks ago.