Aquino, Corona to meet on judiciary gripes

September 15, 2010

Jocelyn Montemayor with JP Lopez
September 15, 2010

PRESIDENT Aquino is expected to meet Chief Justice Renato Corona to discuss the budget of the judiciary and the threat of lower court judges to go on mass leave in protest of the slash in the judiciary’s proposed budget for 2011.

The SC had asked for a P27.7 billion budget with a P900 million allotment to cover the salary increases of justices and judges since 2007.

The Department of Budget and Management endorsed P14.3 billion to Congress.

In a press conference after the PNP change of command ceremony in Camp Crame, Aquino said the judges should reconsider the proposed mass leave and think of its impact on the public.

“Iyung sa leave, I hope that they are not gonna do that. They are a very necessary function and I’m sure most, if not all, of them are very upright individuals who would want to do real service to the people. This can be, I think, threshed out,” he said.

Aquino also denied claims of the judges and other judicial branch personnel that they have not been receiving salary increases due them.

Aquino said it is just a matter of coming into an understanding on the proper interpretation of the law, citing that the confusion stemmed from the judges’ claims that they should receive salary increases following the implementation of the Salary Standardization Law 3 in 2009, which is separate and in addition to an earlier salary adjustment that started in 2007.

“There is such a Salary Standardization Law, iyung concept dun is equal work for equal pay. I understand they have been getting increases in the allowances even until 2007…The bottom line is, I’m made to understand that they have been getting what is due them under the pertinent laws,” Aquino said.

Then President Arroyo signed in June 2009, the Salary Standardization Law 3, where the salary increase will be given in four yearly tranches starting on July 1, 2009 until 2013.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan urged the Judicial Executive Legislative Advisory and Consultative Council (JELACC) to convene to avert a judicial revolt over budget cuts.

“As a co-equal branch of government, the Judiciary should not be made to beg for financial support. This was exactly the reason why JELACC was conceived,” Pangilinan said.

The JELACC, a brainchild of Pangilinan, is composed of nine members who shall serve ex-oficio without any additional emoluments and/or allowances.

They are the President as chairperson, with the Vice-President, the Senate President, the Speaker, the Chief Justice as regular members; a Cabinet member to be designated by the President, one Senator and one member from the House to be designated by their respective leaders, and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines to be designated by the Chief Justice.

It aims to serve as forum and venue for the three branches of government to undertake measures on matters affecting the primacy of the rule of law.

“The JELACC’s mandate is centered on the rule of law. Our Judiciary cannot fulfill its mandate if they are not given much-needed resources. With JELACC we can formulate solutions on the Judiciary’s budgetary issues such as infrastructure requirements, compensation and other benefits, the creation of more courts, among others. We need not tackle issues as they come. Let’s be pro-active,” Pangilinan said.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said budget cuts for the judiciary will make it virtually impossible for the co-equal branch of government to adequately deal with its case loads.

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