Palace mum on Sereno snub of JDF probe

By Jorge Carino, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 06 2014 03:21 PM | Updated as of Aug 06 2014 11:21 PM

MANILA - Malacanang is keeping its distance amid differing opinions on Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno's non-appearance before a congressional hearing.

At a press briefing Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Edwin Lacierda said he would have to defer to the statement of Sereno on why she skipped the hearing.

He explained that he is not aware of the policy on the appearance of a head of a co-equal branch of government, to another department.

"I'm not very clear on the protocols on inviting the head of another branch of government. Certainly, you don't see the President being invited to ano[ther]-to any hearing from the Congress or the Senate," he said.

Sereno earlier said the timing and context of the House probe into the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) leaves a lot to be desired.

In a letter addressed to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Sereno justified her non-appearance at the House Committee on Justice probe.

Sereno said she respects Congress’ duty to pass legislation but said the "timing and context in which a committee of the House is proposing to inquire into the [JDF] as indicated in its letter, is that they leave much to be desired, and at this point, do not seem to be fully cognizant of the kind of healthy relationship that should exist between the [House and the SC]."

She added: "May I kindly request that I be given the courtesy of time to consult with my colleagues in the Court on how best the judiciary can meaningfully participate in the valid legislative concerns of the House of Representatives without sacrificing judicial independence and fiscal autonomy."

The committee headed by Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. wants to scrap the JDF and introduce the so-called Judicial Support Fund, which will be deposited in the National Treasury.

The probe comes on the heels of recent SC decisions declaring unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund and some acts in the Disbursement Acceleration Program.

President Aquino slammed the SC earlier on what he believes was a wrong decision. Allies also said the JDF is a kind of pork.

Sereno noted the Commission on Audit (COA) has been conducting quarterly audits of the JDF. The COA, in turn, has been furnishing copies to Congress.