’Injustice needs to be corrected’: Judiciary bats for higher 2022 budget

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 27 2021 04:42 PM

P44.98-B budget set by DBM is lower than Judiciary's proposal and this year’s appropriation

MANILA — Seeking a higher 2022 budget for the Judiciary, a Sandiganbayan justice told the Senate finance committee on Monday there is a need to correct an "injustice" against the very branch of government tasked to administer justice.

Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Karl Miranda was referring to the Judiciary’s P67.28 billion proposed budget for 2022, which the Department of Budget and Management reduced to 44.98 billion under the National Expenditure Program submitted to Congress.

The DBM proposal is also lower by P330.65 million compared to this year’s P45.31 billion allocation for the Judiciary.

"The Constitution, section 3, Article VIII in particular, mandates that appropriations for the Judiciary may not be reduced by the Legislature below the amount appropriated for the previous year," Miranda said in an impassioned plea before the Senate finance committee chaired by Senator Sonny Angara.

"And yet, your honors, the DBM, year in and year out, recommends a budget much lower than what the Judiciary desperately needs — a budget lower than what Congress appropriated the year before."

"Your honors, if the Judiciary is to be able to perform its mandate to deliver swift and fair administration of justice, this injustice needs to be corrected," he said.

Miranda was speaking for the Sandiganbayan, whose proposed 2022 budget saw a reduction of P1.07 billion.

He is seeking reconsideration for at least P834 million to cover personnel services, maintenance and operating expenses, and the retrofitting of its centennial building which will cost about P500 million.

All tribunals under the Judiciary suffered a total of P22.3 billion reduction in the NEP and have appealed for at least P7.47 billion to be restored. 

Their budget proposal reductions are broken down as follows:

  • Supreme Court (SC) - reduced by P16.89B, appealing P4.38B
  • Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) - reduced by P53.28M, appealing P16.56M
  • Court of Appeals (CA) - reduced by P4.01B, appealing P2.01B
  • Sandiganbayan (SB) - reduced by P1.07B, appealing P834.46M
  • Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) - reduced by P275.82M, appealing P231.15M

Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said the P4.38 billion that the SC is seeking Senate to reconsider will go to 510 new positions in offices like the newly-created Judicial Integrity Board, to more judges-at-large, and hazard pay for judges and judges-at-large.

The PET is also asking Senate to restore P16.56 million of its proposed budget since 2022 is a presidential election year. The PET handles election protests involving the presidential and vice presidential posts.

CA Presiding Justice Remedios Salazar-Fernando herself asked for reconsideration of at least P2.01B budget for the CA. 

She noted they were not given budget increases for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOOE) and for capital outlay for next year despite rentals of buildings in Cebu and Cagayan de Oro tripling by next year. The CA rents offices in these areas.

From a bigger perspective, Miranda pointed out how the Judiciary, despite being the third branch of government, only received a "miniscule 1.007% of (this) year’s national budget" which reached a record P4.506 trillion.

The budget deliberations at the Senate committee level ended in less than an hour. 

Angara assured the justices and members of the Judiciary present that he will push for the increase at the Senate plenary level.

He said the Judiciary's 2021 budget was P1.76 billion higher than the DBM proposal, when it left the Senate last year.

Senator Francis Tolentino voiced his support as well for the budget increase.

Also present during the budget hearing were SC justices Rodil Zalameda and Jhosep Lopez, CA Associate Justice Edwin Sorongon, SB presiding justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and CTA presiding justice Roman del Rosario. 

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