Budget chief: SC to get bigger share of 2013 budget-A A +A
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
CITING the smoother relationship between the executive and judicial branches, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad assured Wednesday that the judiciary will get a bigger share in next year's proposed P2-trillion national budget.
In an ambush interview following his two-hour closed-door meeting with Supreme Court (SC) magistrates, Abad said there was an "open and frank discussion" about the budgetary concerns of the judiciary.
For next year, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) earmarked P17.77 billion for the judiciary, of which P5.3 billion will go to the SC.
Of the 14 incumbent members of the SC, only 12 were present during the meeting, led by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Arturo Brion did not attend.
Abad was invited to the SC "because there is a new leadership and she (Sereno) wanted to be familiar with the budget process."
Abad's visit to the justices' turf was said to augur well for the judiciary considering that in the past, both branches of the government was embroiled in a verbal tussle over the SC's budget allotment.
However, neither Abad nor anybody from the SC wanted to brief the media on the highlights of their discussion.
"(This) is a good opportunity for us, (but) I would have to defer to the office of the Chief Justice because we agreed that they are going to speak about this. This is really their concern. (There was) quite a number of issues (discussed), but I’d rather that she takes up the matter with you," he told reporters when asked about the highlights of the meeting.
Abad said among the issues discussed were the special allowances for the judiciary (SAJ), which was a sore point between the two branches during the term of ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The DBM's position is that the SAJ is subject to audit and any savings of the judiciary should revert to the national treasury, but the High Court thought otherwise, insisting on its fiscal autonomy.
SAJ, which are funds realized from the collection of docket and other filing fees by the courts, serve as a contingency fund for the judiciary. It is also from this fund where the SC gets the unpaid special allowances of judges.
Budget deliberations have been concluded at the House of Representatives, but in the Senate, a committee report, which includes how to resolve the opposing views of the SC and the DBM on the matter of SAJ, has yet to be submitted to the plenary.
Abad also said the justices were optimistic about the proposal of the DBM to provide budgetary support for the transparency and accountability efforts of the SC, particularly with respect to digitization initiatives across the judiciary to boost its operational efficiency and minimize irregularities.
"This way, anyone can check the status of their cases online and monitor the progress from there, without having to make multiple visits or phone calls to a judge's office. In addition, it will be quicker and easier to identify which cases are taking too long to resolve, so that the judicial system can pursue measures to hasten the resolution of long-standing cases," he said. (JCV/Sunnex)