MANILA, Philippines - Another prosecutor in the impeachment trial of former chief justice Renato Corona has authored a bill aimed at removing the absolute control and discretion of the Supreme Court (SC) over the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF).
Unlike the earlier proposal of Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chief impeachment prosecutor of Corona, which seeks to abolish the JDF and replace it with the Judiciary Support Fund, Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas’ Bill 4690 would retain the JDF.
In filing HB 4690, Fariñas proposes to amend Presidential Decree 1949, the Marcos issuance that created the JDF.
Collections would be turned over to the national treasury and disbursements would be made pursuant to an appropriation made by Congress as part of the judiciary’s budget.
The Bureau of Treasury, instead of the SC, would administer the JDF.
The fund would continue to be on top of the annual budget that the legislature appropriates for the SC and lower courts.
The SC’s resident auditor would be required to audit JDF receipts, revenues, uses, disbursements and expenditures every quarter, and would submit a report to the SC, the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Commission on Audit (COA).
During budget deliberations in Congress, the chief justice would be asked to submit a report on funding and support received by the judiciary from external sources, such as from local government units, including buildings, facilities, vehicles, equipment and additional allowances.
“Through the years, and as particularly highlighted during the impeachment of former chief justice Renato Corona, the issue of transparency and accountability in the administration of the JDF has been consistently raised and emphasized, only for the Supreme Court to invoke its fiscal autonomy on the matter,” Fariñas said.
“This proposed legislation, therefore, intends to emphasize that the constitutional grant of fiscal autonomy cannot and should not be used to frustrate the overriding constitutional principles of transparency, accountability and good governance,” he said.
Under PD 1949, 80 percent of collections would be set aside for allowances and 20 percent for facilities. The Fariñas bill would not disturb such setup.
Under the Tupas proposal, 70 percent of the JSF would be reserved for allowances, 15 percent for new facilities, buildings or equipment and 15 percent for the repair of existing Halls of Justice buildings.
The House is expected to tackle the two measures when Congress opens its second regular session after President Aquino’s fifth State of the Nation Address on July 28.
Not ganging up on SC
The executive and legislative branches of government are not ganging up on the Supreme Court, congressmen said yesterday.
They made the assertion in response to former senator Joker Arroyo’s statement accusing Malacañang, Congress and even the COA of “encircling” the judiciary.
Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, the first lawmaker to call for a review of the JDF, said it is within the power of Congress to revisit the law creating the JDF.
“It was a presidential decree that created this fund at a time when there was concentration of executive and legislative power in one man. The decree placed the fund under the exclusive control of the Supreme Court and did not subject it to detailed audit,” he said.