Lawmakers heading the House justice panel have moved to junk the law on Judiciary Development Fund (JDF).
Niel Tupas of Iloilo and Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte, chairman and vice chairman of the House Committee on Justice, respectively, filed their separate bills seeking the repeal of JDF law a day after President Benigno Aquino 3rd expressed his disgust over the Supreme Court ruling against his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)
Tupas noted that in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling that the DAP and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) are discretionary and as such illegal, the JDF should also be outlawed because it is also discretionary with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court having the exclusive power and duty to approve and authorize disbursements and expenditures of the JDF.
The JDF, created through Presidential Decree 1949, provides that the JDF will be sourced from docket and other legal fees paid by party litigants and will be used to finance the cost of living allowance of court employees (80 percent) and purchase of office equipment and other facilities (20 percent).
Under Tupas and Fariñas’ bills, all fees and collections constituting the JDF will be immediately and regularly remitted by the Supreme Court, through the Chief Justice, to the National Treasury and that no allocation, disbursement or expenditure of the JDF will be paid out except pursuant to an appropriation by the Congress as part of the budget of the judiciary as provided for in the General Appropriations Act.
“We want to repeal the law [on JDF]because there is no proper accounting of it. That is a development fund, but it only goes to the pockets of the few for grocery, gasoline allowance. Under this measure, the judiciary cannot spend their fee collections anytime they want,” Tupas, a lawyer, said during the Ugnayan sa Batasan News Forum.
Fariñas, also a lawyer, argued that repealing the law on JDF is in accordance with Section 1, Article 11, of the Constitution which states that the public office is a public trust and that public officers and employees are accountable to the people with their duty to serve with the highest degree of responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency at all times.
“The transfer of the administration of the JDF from the Supreme Court to the Bureau of the Treasury is not decimating the judiciary’s fiscal autonomy or an attack on the independence of the Supreme Court but a matter of administering checks and balances and the overriding principles of good governance,” he said.
Tupas and Fariñas called for a special audit of the judiciary fund.