• House sets JDF probe in February


    The turning tables are about to unfold with the congressional investigation on the Judicial Development Fund shaping up by February this year—the unprecedented year of lawmakers not being granted Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) since it was outlawed by the Supreme Court, a House leader said Wednesday.

    Rep. Niel Tupas, Jr. of Iloilo, Chairman of the House Committee on Justice, made the disclosure at the sidelines of his Committee’s hearing on Wednesday when the panel tackled pending measures which seeks to establish additional regional trial courts across the country.

    “The JDF investigation may start sometime in February, after the committee disposes of bills on [amendments to]Witness Protection Act and Whistleblowers bill. We will start that [probe]before our break this first quarter,” Tupas told reporters.

    The JDF 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).

    PDAF, on the other hand, is the P70 million discretionary fund of each lawmaker granted to them annually for the perusal of their respective constituents.

    PDAF, however, has been outlawed by the Supreme Court in November 2013 amid protests against PDAF spurred by the filing of charges vs. former and incumbent government officials over the P10 billion PDAF scam which benefited bogus entities.

    “The inquiry will be on how JDF is allocated and disbursed,” Tupas added.

    Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who has been appointed to her post by President Benigno Aquino 3rd with the ouster of Renato Corona for betrayal of public trust over undeclared wealth, has earlier argued against the House probe on JDF.

    Sereno has made a stance that the JDF cannot be subjected to the scrutiny of Congress because of the High Court’s fiscal autonomy status.

    Tupas, an ally of President Aquino under the ruling Liberal Party, remained adamant of the House probe on the JDF but won’t force Sereno to come over to Congress to explain.

    “Maybe it won’t be necessary for her to come over. We will invite those in charge of the funds. We will accord her courtesy [of being invted]but if she is not needed, then she can send her representative,” Tupas said.

    “We will not compel her to come,” Tupas added.  LLANESCA T. PANTI


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