MANILA, Philippines – In the middle of the controversy about the alleged misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the Supreme Court (SC) asked for a bigger budget to financed the reforms in the court while assuring that no similar “pork barrel scam” is existing in the judiciary.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who replaced the ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona, broke her silence and defended the P37-million fund that went to non-government organization in 2012, which was stated on the high court’s 2012 statement of allotments, obligations and balances.
Sereno assures that the P37-million money released went to the national organization of lawyers, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), and all funds of the judiciary have been fully and properly audited.
“Every single centavo in the judiciary is fully audited. We cannot escape COA (Commission on Audit) accounting,” she further stressed.
However, Sereno declined to answer on the controversial pork barrel scam as it might reach to high court.
“We will only respond on questions on PDAF when case is already brought to us,” she said.
In her first press conference, Sereno showed to the public the annual report of SC that shows details on how the P15.357 billion budget of the judiciary was spent on the previous year.
According to report, from August 2012 to July 2013, the total Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) collected from legal fees reached over P1 billion wherein P870 million of that amount went to employees of the court nationwide while the remaining money went to the capital outlay and equipment purchase.
However, despite of the P200 million remaining amount, Sereno honestly admitted it will not be enough to enhance the condition of the courtrooms in the country.
“Please, Congress, give us more money,” she begged.
The composition of the JDF was made under the Presidential Decree 1949 by former President Ferdinand Marcos that aims to help the members and personnel of the Judiciary.
The said fund has been the primary reason of bickering among the legislative, executive and judiciary branches of the government wherein both the Legislative and Executive branches questioned the disbursements of JDF.
The high court only gets less than 1 percent of the national budget in the previous years.
Faye Michelle Regis
ABCom, Leyte Normal University