Lawmakers urge COA to audit judiciary ‘pork’

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014


A LAWMAKER has urged the Commission on Audit (COA) to investigate and conduct special audit on the P1.7-billion Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) or the so-called pork barrel fund of the Supreme Court (SC).

Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said that the call is only "for the spirit of transparency and accountability."

"COA has the legal obligation to conduct a special audit not only on HOR [House of Representatives] or our PDAF [Priority Development Assistance Fund] or DAP [Disbursement Acceleration Program] but even on SC's funds… we're just checking how they are spending their funds. This is pursuant to the principle of checks and balance provided within our Constitution," Barzaga said.

Congress has been in de facto war with the high court since the start of the Aquino administration. First in 2012, when it impeached former Chief Justice Renato Corona for his failure to declare his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth accurately.

In November 2013, the Supreme Court issued a decision declaring the PDAF unconstitutional. It was followed by its disqualification of Marinduque Representative Regina Reyes for her failure to renounce her American citizenship.

Barzaga said that there is nothing personal and the high court should show to the public how it spends its judiciary fund.

"The Supreme Court in the spirit of transparency and accountability must show to the public how it's spending JDF," he added.

Presidential Decree 1949, the law that established the JDF, mandates that, "the fund [JDF] shall be used to augment the allowances of the members and personnel of the judiciary and to finance acquisition, maintenance, and repair of office equipment and facilities; provided, that at least 80 percent of the fund shall be used for cost of living allowances and not more than 20 percent of the said fund shall be used for office equipment and facilities of the courts located wherever the legal fees are collected."

The fund shall come from the docket and other legal fees paid by party litigants.

"When we see it's not being properly spent, then we might amend it or provide safety nets in order to see to it that the intent of the law at the time of its promulgation will be achieved," Barazaga added.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. urged Monday the SC to disclose how it spent the JDF following the plan of some House members to look into the disbursement of the discretionary allocation of the judiciary.

Belmonte, however, junked the proposal to repeal the law that created the JDF.

Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., House committee on justice chairperson, said that his committee will start its investigation into the JDF when session resumes on July 28. (Sunnex)

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