MANILA - Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Fariñas is advising the Supreme Court (SC) to let go of its discretion over the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) -- the so-called pork barrel fund of the high court.
Pork barrel has been defined by critics as any lump sum appropriation disbursed at the discretion of just one person.
The Supreme Court outlawed the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of the executive in separate rulings declaring them as unconstitutional.
Fariñas and Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares both pointed out that the JDF, like the PDAF and DAP, is a lump sum fund disbursed by just one person -- in this case, the chief justice of the SC.
Fariñas made the advise in response to a question on how the court should react to the bills he and Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas filed.
Fariñas and Tupas filed separate bills seeking to remove the discretion of the chief justice over the JDF, which is raised from court fees and court incomes that go into the court's accounts without congressional appropriations.
They filed their bills shortly before President Benigno Aquino III addressed the nation on television seeking a reconsideration of the unconstitutionality of the DAP, warning of a clash with the Supreme Court unless it does so.
The JDF was created by Presidential Decree 1949 in 1984.
JDF SPENDING OPTIONS
Fariñas wants the court revenues to go to the national treasury, and that it only be spent with congressional authorization.
Tupas wants to abolish the JDF and replace it with with a Judiciary Support Fund, which would likewise lodge all court revenues in the national treasury, to be disbursed only upon the SC's submission of a detailed budget.
Fariñas said the SC letting go of the JDF would be an act of good faith and consistent with its rulings on the PDAF and DAP. Tupas previously said his bill isn't tit for tat after the SC outlawed lawmakers' PDAF and the President's DAP.
Fariñas pointed out that right now, any audit by the Commission on Audit (COA) of the JDF is not submitted to Congress but to the Supreme Court, making the JDF and the SC accountable only to the SC.
The bill came amid a perceived threat of impeachment against the justices from the President over the DAP ruling.
Critics of Aquino are now preparing an impeachment complaint against him for the same DAP ruling.
Fariñas, who is allied with the Aquino majority in the House of Representatives, does not see any betrayal of public trust in the DAP. Betrayal of public trust is a ground for impeachment.
He, however, declined to comment when asked about the President's possible usurpation of powers in the DAP, citing that it is still subjudice since the ruling faces an appeal.
Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached in 2011 for among others, failing to account for the JDF.