DBM ready to boost judiciary budget, but…

Posted at 09/02/2012 7:42 PM | Updated as of 09/03/2012 8:24 AM

Abad still silent on judges’ allowances

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is ready to help boost the judiciary’s budget in line with transparency and accountability efforts.

It remains mum, however, on questions raised regarding its recent decision inserting a provision in the 2013 General Appropriations Act assigning to the national coffers the balances from the Special Allowances for the Judiciary (SAJ).

The SAJ is provided for under Republic Act 9227, which grants additional compensation in the form of special allowances for the members of the judiciary. These are sourced from legal fees collected by the judiciary.

Two weeks ago, Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez asked the Senate to remove such provision, saying it could be to the detriment again of the judges and court employees.

In the past, judges and court employees took to the streets when the government introduced the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MBPF). It is an innovation that impounds funds for unfilled positions in the legislative, judiciary and other constitutional bodies and which can only be accessed via presidential approval. Thus, these agencies will be barred from realigning the budget for other purposes.

In a press release, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad mentioned the DBM’s willingness to support the judiciary in so far as digitization is concerned.

"We are more than willing to support the Supreme Court's drive for increased transparency, accountability, and openness in their budgetary activities,” Abad said.

He added the national budget can also accommodate the creation of an internal and integrated human resources and payroll management system in the Supreme Court and other government offices.

"Once in place, this system will maintain an up-to-date record of employees currently serving in all courts at every level. This will enable the accurate tracking of all individuals employed by the judiciary as well as facilitate the efficient release of employee salaries and benefits," Abad said.

He also asked the Supreme Court to adopt a system similar to the Government Integrated Financial Management and Information System, which will allow the judiciary to keep tabs on allocations and disbursements across the court system.

"The judiciary's fiscal autonomy-while essential in preserving the separation of powers in government-has also posed serious challenges in ensuring transparency and accountability in the court system. A judicial fiscal management and information system may help ensure that, should the High Court decide to undertake such an initiative," he said.