House panel invites Sereno to JDF hearing

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Saturday, July 26, 2014


THE House committee of justice will invite Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in its inquiry into the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) or the so-called judiciary "pork barrel".

Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., committee chairperson, said Sereno will shed light on allegations of misuse of the JDF.

"We will invite her (Sereno), but she can send her duly-authorized representatives," said Tupas, as he clarified that the Chief Justice will not be compelled to attend the investigation.

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The probe into the P1.775-billion JDF will help restore the balance in the three co-equal branches of government, Tupas said.

Earlier, Tupas and Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Farinas Jr. filed House Bill (HB) 4738 and HB 4690, respectively, to repeal, replace and reform the JDF by compelling the SC justices to open their pork barrel, stressing the constitutional grant of fiscal autonomy cannot and should not be used to frustrate the overriding constitutional principles of transparency, accountability and good governance.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. also challenged the high court to make a voluntary public disclosure of all their transactions regarding the JDF or face congressional investigation.

"The Supreme Court should voluntarily disclose its receipts and expenditures, and not wait for any congressional inquiry," he said.

Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr., for his part, scored the SC for its supposed P73-million overspending when it spent P106.78 million JDF in 2012, an amount higher than the P33.24 million it had collected, raising interpretation that it has been using the collections of other courts nationwide to support their huge expenses.

"For the year 2012, the total collections of the SC from the cases brought before is P33,241,383.21 and yet it spent a total amount for the SC employees for cost of living allowance of P65,674,615.79 and P108,787,950.47 or a total expense of 106,787,980.47 which expenditure is much above the SC collection of 33,241,383.21," Barzaga said.

During the 12th Congress in 2003, the impeachment complaint filed by then Tarlac representative Gilbert Teodoro against then Chief Justice Hilario Davide did not prosper.

Davide was accused of using the JDF for the renovation of SC vacation cottages in Baguio City instead of augmenting the salaries and allowances of the court judges and employees, which the law dictates.

The late President Ferdinand Marcos created the JDF on July 18, 1984 through Presidential Decree (PD) 1949.

The JDF shall come from the docket and other legal fees paid by party litigants where at least 80 percent of the funds shall be given to employees of the judiciary by way of cost of living allowances and not more than 20 percent of the JDF shall be used for office equipment and other facilities. (Sunnex)

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