MANILA, Philippines - Senator Francis Pangilinan urged the leaders of the three branches of government to revive an advisory council first instituted in 2007 to provide the necessary budgetary support for the judiciary.
"With a new Chief Justice in place, it is timely for all branches of government to come together to map out a strategic direction for judicial reforms. Of course, in order to implement the reforms that we have long been waiting for in the judiciary, the [Judicial Executive Legislative Advisory Consultative Council] must push for greater budgetary support for the Judiciary. The Judiciary simply cannot be modernized by a measly one percent of the national budget,” he said in a statement.
The JELACC was created via a memorandum of agreement signed in December 2007 by the three heads of government: then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, then Senate President Manuel B. Villar, then House Speaker Jose C. De Venecia, and then Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno.
It was seen as a council similar to the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) in order to resolve bottlenecks affecting the government’s priority projects, specifically those in litigation.
Pangilinan said the judiciary’s budgetary woes should first be resolved in order to answer an “antiquated” system.
"It will not do us any good if the Judiciary continues to fall behind as the other branches of government are moving steadily forward. Let all the other branches of government reach out and lift the Judiciary from the quagmire that it finds itself in because of lack of budgetary support and lack of justices. Let us convene JELACC and institute the necessary reforms to modernize our Judiciary,” he said.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. met with several members of the Supreme Court on Tuesday to discuss certain points he mentioned in a press release issued on Sunday, which includes the digitization of the SC.
He refused to comment, however, whether he discussed with the justices his decision inserting a provision in the 2013 General Appropriations Act assigning to the national coffers the balances from the Special Allowances for the Judiciary (SAJ).
The SAJ is provided for under Republic Act 9227, which grants additional compensation in the form of special allowances for the members of the judiciary. These are sourced from legal fees collected by the judiciary.