The Commission on Audit (COA) should scrutinize the P1.77-billion Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) or the discretionary fund of the Supreme Court just as much as the outlawed Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a House leader said on Monday.
Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmarinas, chairman of the House Committee on Games and Amusements, made the stance in light of the House leaders’ announcement that the House will probe the usage of the JDF next year in exercise of its oversight powers.
“A special audit for the JDF should also be made, similar to the scrutiny made to the pork barrel. COA should work on it immediately, for the sake of transparency and accountability. No one is above the law,” Barzaga, a certified public accountant-lawyer, pointed out.
The COA audit on PDAF has been a part of the evidence of the plunder complaint against government officials who allegedly benefited from the P10-billion PDAF scam.
The JDF, on the other hand, was created thru Presidential Decree 1949 which provides that the JDF, sourced from the docket and other legal fees paid by party litigants, should finance the cost of living allowance (COLA) of court employees (80 percent) and used for the purchase office equipment and other facilities (20 percent).
The JDF is an off-budget item, meaning it is not provided for in the General Appropriations Act. Further, the Supreme Court spent P106.78 million of its JDF in 2012, higher than the P33.24 million it collected.
“The COA is yet to disclose how much of the JDF went to the judiciary’s clerk, if there was any. What about the COLA of the court interpreters, sheriff, as well as the judges of justices of Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court? Nobody knows,” Barzaga, argued.
“For those court employees who have less salaries and less allowances, they should get something from the JDF for equity,” Barzaga added.
House Deputy Majority Leader Romero Quimbo backed Barzaga’s call.
“COA should do it because it will help the court in its mandate for transparency,” Quimbo said in a separate text message.
Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. was accused of misusing JDF during the 12th Congress since he allegedly used the JDF for the renovation of the Supreme Court’s vacation cottages in Baguio City contrary to its mandated use, but the impeachment complaint against him did not prosper.
Llanesca T. Panti