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MANILA - Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno is avoiding any confrontation with President Aquino over the Suprme Court's unfavorable decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). But she has an appeal to Congress.
After coming under fire from no less than Aquino, Sereno said the Supreme Court is simply fulfilling its mandate.
"It should be clear to everybody that the Supreme Court can only be loyal to the Constitution," she said Thursday.
Aquino earlier expressed dismay over the Supreme Court's decision to declare Malacañang's DAP as unconstitutional.
The President's comments raised fears of a showdown between the executive branch and the judiciary.
Sereno, however, has no plans of stoking the fire.
"I have enormous respect for the President and I'm sure that he also respects the office of the chief justice," she said in a press conference. "I do not read anything into his statements."
"If we do not involve ourselves into the muck and rake of politics, then democracy has a better chance of surviving in the country," she added. "We should be the most depoliticized high constitutional officers."
Sereno, however, said the judiciary is not getting all the funding it needs.
In the proposed P2.6-trillion national budget for 2015, Only P19.5 billion is allocated for the judiciary.
"It's terribly imbalanced against us. We are now only being proposed to have .778%, not even 1 percent, of the entire P2.6 trillion national budget," she said.
"There are now 61 pilot e-courts," Sereno said. "If we can have the resources from the national government, we can add to these figures. The problem is that the executive department deleted our requests for funding."
"We don't have support for judicial reform programs from the GAA money. It is funded by the USAID," she added.
Sereno is now appealing to Congress to increase funding for reforms, saying it is in everyone's best interests.
"If you start a reform program and you stop midway, then the only outcome can be failure, will be failure," she said. "We cannot afford to fail our people."
The appeal comes as the house justice committee scrutinizes the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), which some lawmakers want abolished.
The committee's chairman, Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., has denied that the probe is in retaliation for the Supreme Court's ruling on the DAP.
Sereno, meanwhile, said the lower House should first wait for Malacañang's appeal on the DAP to be settled.
"Pag nagawa na po kami ng desisyon dun sa motion for reconsideration, may mga opisyales na pong dadating," she said. "Wala naman po kaming tinatagong kababalaghan tungkol sa JDF."
Sereno said the Supreme Court is keen on getting rid of corruption in the judiciary, but the process is far from quick and easy.
There is a probe into a certain "Ma'am Arlene" -- an alleged fixer in the judiciary.
"I have not known any institution in any society in history that has been able to do an honest-to-goodness house cleaning without pain," Sereno said.
She added that the justices have nothing to hide, and the Office of the Ombudsman can investigate their wealth if it wants to.
The high court recently rejected the Bureau of Internal Revenue's request for copies of justices' statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth for 2003 to 2012, citing lack of sufficient basis.
Sereno also questioned calls for a lifestyle check on her and her fellow magistrates.
"Gagawin po ba natin yan sa lahat ng opisyales, o pinupuntirya lang po natin ang mga miyembro ng Korte Suprema?" she said.
As for observations that the judiciary is the weakest among the three branches of government, Sereno said the judiciary is strong if the Filipino people believe in it. - with ANC