No to stipend

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

ENVIRONMENTAL advocate and Philippine Earth Justice Center Inc. co-founder Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos opposes the Cebu City Government’s practice of giving monthly allowances to members of the judiciary and prosecutors.

Ramos said the City should use the budget to provide for the needs of marginalized sectors, such as malnourished kids, out-of-school youths and displaced residents who need shelter, and to build more school buildings.

“It is extremely difficult to understand why mandated services are left out and the aid and grants to the judiciary and prosecutors are given top priority,” she said in her letter to the City Council.

Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 13 Judge Meinrado Paredes said Ramos’s suggestion is good, but he will leave it to the judges’ conscience whether to accept the allowance.

“There are judges who need the money to support their children. There are also those who do not need extra money,” he said.
Picking up the tab

Cebu Provincial Prosecutor Jane Petralba said they don’t get per diem for out-of-town court hearings.

The stipend from local government units is used to pay for gasoline, she said.

“I use my own car and fuel if I have out-of-town court hearings. Unlike police or other government offices, we don’t have government vehicles and MOEE (maintenance and other operating expenses),” Petralba said.

She said they even pay for the janitors and Internet connection.

Assistant City Prosecutor Aida Sanchez said she is fine with Ramos’s idea, “if only I can be sure that the money will be used for the purpose it is intended.”

“What if it will just go to an NGO (nongovernmental organization) like that of the Napoleses?” asked Sanchez.

But Assistant Prosecutor Mary Ann Castro said the budget for that has long been allotted “to cater (to) the marginalized without impinging on the benefits apportioned for and deservedly due to the public labor force like us.”

Substantial pay

Executive Judge Soliver Peras declined to comment, saying Ramos is entitled to her own opinion.

Ramos also said justices, judges and prosecutors already receive substantial salaries so the City should stop the practice.

She said receiving aid from the City will only drag them to controversies.

She hopes both the City and members of the judiciary will reconsider.

The City currently gives P25,000 to Court of Appeals (CA) justices; P4,000 for the CA clerks of courts; P20,000 to RTC judges; P4,000 to RTC clerks of court; P15,000 to Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) judges; and P4,000 to MTCC clerks of courts.

It gives P12,000 to city prosecutors; P10,000 to assistant city prosecutors; P12,000 to regional prosecutors; and P10,000 to assistant regional prosecutors.

Earlier, Mayor Michael Rama wanted to raise the allowances: P45,000 for CA justices; P15,000 for all the clerks of courts; P35,000 for RTC judges; and P30,000 for MTCC judges.

The council would not allow it.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 22, 2013.

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