House panel to invite Sereno to JDF spending probe

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

THE House committee on justice will invite Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to its investigation next month into the Supreme Court's (SC) use of its Judiciary Development Fund (JDF).

The JDF, a multi-billion lump-sum appropriation, is tagged as the pork barrel of the SC, similar to that of the unconstitutional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) previously enjoyed by members of Congress.

However, House committee on justice chairman Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr. said that Sereno will not be compelled to attend the probe which is initially scheduled next month.

"An invitation will do. We will invite her, but she can send her representative. We will not compel her to come," Tupas told reporters.

The JDF was created under Presidential Decree 1949 issued by former President Ferdinand Marcos on July 18, 1984. The fund shall be sourced from the docket and other legal fees paid by party litigants.

Under the decree, at least 80 percent of the funds shall be given to employees of the Judiciary by way of Cost of Living Allowances (Cola) and not more than 20 percent of the JDF shall be used for office equipment and other facilities.

Tupas said the objective of the House committee is to revisit the 30-year-old law.

"It's an inquiry on the allocation, on how it is allocated, disbursement of the JDF and other discretionary funds. The objective is to revisit an old law. It is a 1984 law wherein the executive and legislative powers were vested in one person," Tupas said.

Navotas Representative Tobias Tiangco of the United Nationalist Alliance earlier said that the House probe is a "bullying tactic" of the ruling Liberal Party as the legality of the administration's Disbursement Acceleration Program is still being questioned before the SC. (Sunnex)

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