Tupas’s JSF curtails abuse

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014


SO AN impeachment complaint against President Noynoy Aquino has been filed in Congress with party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna endorsing it?

Although the impeachment complaint was received because it complied with the requirement that it should be endorsed by a member of Congress, the big question is, will majority of the members of Congress vote for it so it would reach the Senate?

The impeachment complaint was based on the ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) that the use by the Aquino administration of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to distribute government funds was unconstitutional.

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Meanwhile, Colmenares denied knowing that the funds used for his nominated projects for hospitals, health kits, farm-to-market roads and school buildings were from DAP.

He was surprised when the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said the money came from DAP. What he knew was that his projects were funded under the item called “continuing appropriations.”

Just like during the time of former president Gloria Arroyo (now Pampanga congresswoman), President Aquino has the support of majority of the members of Congress. I don’t think the complaint would reach second base.

A wild rumor spread after the impeachment complaint was filed said that President Aquino will step down on the condition that once Vice President Jejomar Binay assumes the presidency, he will pardon Aquino.

The impeachment complaint filed by Bayan Muna is just another exercise in futility. House of Representatives members aligned with the Liberal Party of PNoy can shot down the complaint in seconds.

Well, Bayan Muna can always claim that it did its best and showed its independence from the majority of legislators who belong to the party in power.

***

Rep. Niel Tupas has some good points in moving to abolish the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) under the Supreme Court (SC) and replace it with the Judiciary Support Fund (JSF) that will strip the SC of its control over the funds.

The JDF is the reason why filing fees for civil cases and other fees that the courts impose are increased. It has also been hounded with controversies as to the allocation and disbursement of the funds.

However, the timing of the filing of Tupas’s House Bill (HB) 4738 is suspicious because of the recent SC decision that declared the use of government funds through DAP as unconstitutional. Tupas is an ally of President Aquino.

HB 4738 seeks to abolish JDF that was established by PD 1949 when Ferdinand Marcos was the president. It wants to reblace the JDF with the JSF.

Under HB 4738, the SC will no longer have direct control of the fees collected by the courts because these shall be remitted to and deposited with the National Treasury as a special account in the General Fund.

Under Section of HB 4738, the fund will only be released if the SC submits an “itemized special budget.”

In defense of the JDF, some court employees are wearing black or red as a silent protest.

If my memory serves me right, I think court employees once protested when the SC cut or did not release their share from the JDF. There were also allegations of abuses in the disbursements of the JDF.

Under PD 1949, eighty percent of the fund should be used for the employees’ cost of living allowance while 20 percent is intended for the courts’ equipment and facilities. But look at our courtrooms, they are a pathetic sight.

But while the motive of Congressman Tupas may be doubtful because of the timing of his move, I still agree with its purpose. The JDF was created at the time when the legislative and the judiciary were under the president.

Appropriation matters are the concern of the legislative department hence Tupas’s bill cannot be considered an encroachment on the independence of the judiciary. Besides, JDF will be replaced with JSF.

The legislative can also claim that it is only exercising its prerogative under the principle of checks-and-balance in the same way that the SC exercised its right when it shot down DAP.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 24, 2014.

Opinion

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