Conflict of interest and delicadeza-A A +A
Sunday, December 22, 2013
THE giving of allowances by a local government unit to members of the judiciary has been sparking debates, raising the issue of possible conflict of interest and delicadeza. Now, the issue is revived with environmental advocate lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos questioning it.
Ramos, who is the co-founder of the Philippine Earth Justice Center Inc., said a local government unit like Cebu City should use the budget to provide for the needs of the marginalized sector, 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 giving top priority,” read part of Ramos’s letter to the City Council.
The City Government gives a monthly allowance of P25,000 to Court of Appeals justices; P4,000 to their clerks; P25,000 to RTC judges; and P4,000 to their clerks; P15,000 to MTCC judges; and P4,000 to their clerks. City prosecutors receive P5,000.
I understand the Provincial Government also provides a substantial allowance to RTC judges and their clerks and to provincial prosecutors. Some judges, though, waived their allowance during the term of then governor Gwen Garcia, citing possible conflict of interest and delicadeza.
Cebu City also provides allowances to members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) assigned in the city. This is provided for in the Local Government Code of the Philippines that an LGU can provide allowances to national government employees who render duty in its locality.
Attorney Ramos has a point. The LGU should give priority to the basic needs of its constituents rather than providing fat allowances to national government employees.
These employees have enough. Imagine Regional State Prosecutor Fernando Gubalane receiving allowances from various LGUs under his jurisdiction.
The conflict of interest might arise here and this has already happened. If the LGU, or its chief executive, has a pending case before the sala of a judge receiving allowance, it might put him in a very compromising situation. If the judge decides in favor of the LGU, his decision might be tainted with malice because he is receiving the allowance. And if he decides otherwise, the chief executive might get back at him by not releasing the allowance. And this happened during Garcia’s time. Remember the judge in Danao City who decided a case against the Province? Gwen stopped his allowance.
The conviction of broadcaster Leo Lastimosa of the libel case filed by Gwen before RTC Judge Raphael Yrastorza was controversial. The judge admitted benefitting from Capitol’s generosity. Asked about it, Yrastorza just said, “So what?”
But I don’t know if the practice can be stopped. Even the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice have no categorical stand on this. As if these branches of government, which are in the administration of justice, are just tolerating the practice. In the meantime, we will just leave this to the independence and conscience of the allowances’ recipients.
Last Saturday, the entire staff of GMA 7 Cebu news and public affairs was in Catagbacan, Loon, Bohol distributing Christmas gifts to students and conducting a relief mission at the Loon North Central Schools. We gave toys and relief goods to almost 400 students. We also conducted a feeding program. The toys we gave were solicited from our viewers. These were gift-wrapped and had cards bearing encouraging messages. The students were very grateful.
While on our way to Loon, passing through Tubigon and Calape, I observed that some residents who were victims of the earthquake have not yet recovered. Churches and government buildings like the Tubigon Municipal Hall have not yet been fixed. I think they still need help.
Since we don’t have an issue on Wednesday, Dec. 25, I will greet in advance our readers a Merry Christmas.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 23, 2013.