Sereno asks for bigger budget, PNoy reacts

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 02 2014 03:57 PM | Updated as of Dec 03 2014 06:04 AM

MANILA - Despite his disagreement with recent Supreme Court decisions, President Aquino immediately responded to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's appeal for additional budgetary support for the judiciary's anti-corruption and modernization programs.

In her speech during the 2nd State Conference on the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), Sereno said technology can be an effective anti-corruption tool as it minimizes the areas of human intervention.

"This in turn can be fertile breeding grounds for corruption, that is, human intervention… Of course, such initiatives require funding and this is the reason why we continually appeal for additional budgetary support," Sereno said in her policy response.

Addressing Budget Secretary Butch Abad in his speech, the President expressed support for the judiciary's initiatives.

"Butch, I hope you took note of budgetary requirements of the judiciary that should be attended to posthaste. And since the approving authority is present also, perhaps we can lobby them for the speedy inclusion of what is necessary to help the judiciary in our common fight against corruption amongst others, making sure we are compliant with all the directives," Aquino said.

Sereno said that the Supreme Court has been undertaking a "serious house cleaning" by investigating allegation of corruption against members of the judiciary.

She cited the dismissal of Sandiganbayan Justice Gregory Ong and the investigation of four Regional Trial Court (RTC) judges in connection with the elections of officers in the Philippine Judges Association.

"This is by operating the standard of the good judge... one whose decision is beyond the reach of money and power. Towards this end, we have engaged in serious house cleaning, a painful but necessary process. Part of this process involves the conduct of investigations, some of which we have done on our own initiative," Sereno said.

As part of opening up the courts, Sereno mentioned the live streaming of oral arguments and making available to the public the justices' statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) "upon specification of reasonable grounds."

She also said that Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) can now get copies of SALNs of Sandiganbayan justices.

"To clarify, we never intended to deny the BIR the SALNs per se. It was the way that the request is made that is important for the court. And as the media has reported, she [BIR Commissioner Kim Henares] now can get a copy of the SALNs of the Sandiganbayan justices," she said.