Judiciary budget up by P900M

Posted at 08/06/2014 3:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino has increased funding for the judiciary by nearly P900 million despite his confrontation with the Supreme Court (SC) over his controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

His proposed P2.606-trillion 2015 budget shows that funds for the judiciary will go up from P18.560 billion this year to P19.499 billion. The SC and other courts had P17.758 billion last year.

Funding for the SC, regional trial courts and metropolitan trial courts will increase by P758 million, from P16.408 billion to P17.366 billion.

The Supreme Court, functioning as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has a separate budget. It will get P88.058 million next year, slightly up from this year’s P88.023 million. Last year, it had P63 million.

According to a Commission on Audit (COA) report on salaries and allowances paid to bureaucrats for 2013, aside from millions in allowances from the SC proper, all 15 justices received additional allowances from the PET ranging from P822,000 to P850,000.

Six justices sitting in the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) and House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal pocketed more allowances, ranging from P1.1 million to P1.6 million.

The PET and SET have no case to resolve, since there is no protest against the victory of President Aquino in the May 2010 elections, and there is no election case against any incumbent senator.

The COA report shows that SC justices are among the country’s highest paid officials, taking home from P3.5 million to P5.7 million last year.

Their annual basic pay is about P1.1 million. The bulk of their compensation is in the form of allowances.

The equally controversial Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) is a source of additional allowances for justices, judges and their personnel. The SC is resisting House scrutiny of the JDF, which congressmen have labeled as the high court’s pork barrel.

The SC has turned down a request from Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares that her agency be furnished copies of the justices’ statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Henares said she wanted to scrutinize the SALNs to check if justices were paying the correct amount of taxes.

Funding for the Sandiganbayan will go up by P5 million, from P393.4 million to P398.5 million.

Three Sandigan divisions are hearing the plunder and graft cases of Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr., their senior aides, alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and officers of certain agencies used as conduits of pork barrel funds.

The Court of Appeals (CA) will have P1.404 billion next year, down from P1.426 this year. Last year, it had P1.353 billion.

The Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) will have P242.7 million, down slightly from P244.6 million. Its funding last year amounted to P273 million.

The most prominent case the CTA is handling is the one involving boxing champion and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao. The latest development on the case is the court’s decision to require him to post a multi-billion-peso bond to answer for his alleged tax liabilities.

In terms of expense class, provisions for salaries for the SC and lower courts – except the Sandiganbayan, CA and CTA – will go up by P656 million, from P12.968 billion to P13.624 billion.