SC reps to appear at budget hearing

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

SOME justices and an official of the Supreme Court (SC) will be in the House of Representatives on Thursday not to explain the use of the controversial Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) but to defend their proposed P19.49-billion budget for 2015.

SC spokesperson Theodore Te said Tuesday Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva will present the judiciary's proposed budget, which is P900 million higher than this year's P18.56 billion.

While the agenda is just focused on the budget, there is a possibility that the JDF may be raised by congressmen as legislative hearings often follow a no holds barred format.

In a budget inquiry at the Senate in September last year, Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Diosdado Peralta were grilled on the scope and coverage of the SC order that halted the release of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations to senators and congressmen.

The SC later on declared PDAF as unconstitutional and ordered the investigation and prosecution of individuals suspected to have misused the funds intended for agricultural support, scholarships, infrastructure and medical assistance to poor families.

Congressmen, meanwhile, have criticized and threatened Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno with impeachment for not appearing in last week's hearing on the JDF before the justice committee.

The JDF probe has been seen by some quarters as an attempt of President Benigno Aquino III's allies to exact revenge against the SC for striking down PDAF and the government's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional.

Justice committee chairman Niel Tupas Jr. denied this, saying the purpose of the probe is to get the SC's inputs on two bills seeking to repeal the law governing the JDF, which was allegedly attended by lack of transparency and accountability.

Sereno had said the congressional investigation is premature and inappropriate as she will ask the rest of the 15-member SC on how the judiciary can "meaningfully participate" in addressing the legislature's concerns without sacrificing judicial independence and fiscal autonomy. (Sunnex)

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