The lawmakers who worked to impeach then-Chief Justice Renato Corona warned on Wednesday that Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno might suffer the same fate if she misused the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF).
The JDF, sourced from docket and other legal fees paid by party litigants, should finance the cost of living allowance of court employees (80 percent) and purchase of office equipment and other facilities (20 percent). Its disbursement is solely dependent on the Chief Justice.
“If she is found to be violating the rules, the Chief Justice can be impeached even if she is [President Benigno] Aquino Jr.’s appointee,” Rep. Reynaldo Umali, vice chairman of the House justice panel, said.
Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., who heads the committee, earlier presented a 2012 Commission on Audit report showing that P327 million of the judiciary’s fund was spent on motorcycles, computers and handguns, invested in Landbank of the Philippines (P300 million) and given to local government units (P17.1 million).
Tupas made the revelation during a congressional hearing on two measures seeking to remove Sereno’s hold on the JDF.
Deputy Speaker Giorgidi Aggabao said any misuse of the JDF cannot go unpunished.
“Most definitely, the Chief Justice is not a sacred cow. If she commits any act that in the mind of Congress reaches to the level of an impeachable offense, I don’t think Congress will tiptoe into filing a complaint to remove her. It will impeach her post-haste,” Aggabao added.
Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas also questioned the expanded source of the JDF for the last 15 years by virtue of a September 14, 1999 resolution providing other sources of the fund.
These additional sources include proceeds form the sale of court decisions, books, periodicals, pamphlets; unserviceable equipment and pieces of furniture; disposable records or papers; pursuit or operation of transportation facilities for members and personnel of the judiciary; grant of concessions to operate canteens or to provide other services; rentals of facilities; fees collected from Bar candidates, or participants to seminars/workshops or conferences offered or conducted by the court; amount paid to be paid or collected by sheriffs, such as sheriff’s commissions; interests on deposits of its income; and confiscated cash bonds.