Courts grieve over meager budget

Posted at 12/13/2010 5:04 PM | Updated as of 12/13/2010 5:04 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Lower court judges and personnel again wore black on Monday, saying they will not end their protest until Malacañang hears them out over their budget woes.

At the Manila Hall of Justice, judges and employees wore black uniforms and black armbands to dramatize their protest over the government’s failure to allocate funds for their salary differentials since 2007.

The Philippine Judges Association said the “Black Monday Protests” will continue. A summit is also being planned for next year, where the idea of a mass leave would be tackled.

The group also sent a letter to Malacañang on Thursday for a possible discussion with President Benigno Aquino III. It has not yet received word from Palace authorities.

The group has long been appealing for a P1.5 billion allocation for their salary differentials since July 2007.

Instead, what the Senate passed 2 weeks ago was far from what the judiciary proposed.

Both houses of Congress are expected to settle their versions of the 2011 budget before the end of the year, with Malacanang’s proposal high in their priorities. The Aquino government proposed a P14-billion budget for the judiciary, P13 billion short from what the latter actually proposed.

In an interview with ANC, PJA President President Antonio Eugenio said: “We already achieved what we wanted to achieve. We brought the matter to the attention of the executive and legislative that the only way to give justice to judges is for them to allocate necessary funds to cover salary differentials way back January 2007.”

Eugenio is referring to the compensation they said they should be receiving as provided under the Salary Standardization Law.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad justified the budget proposal for the judiciary, saying it has its own sources of revenues such as those collected from the docket fees.

The Supreme Court had already issued a decision in 2009, saying that the Department of Budget and Management should refrain from offsetting the salary increases through the Judicial Development Fund.

The current set-up would show that clerks of court even receive higher pay than the judges.

Manila Judge Silvino Pampilo, Jr. said he receives P31,000 a month, lower than the clerk of court who receives P37,000.

He said, however, that judges remain committed to their work. He said the government should give what is due them. – with a report from Dominic Almelor, ABS-CBN News