Press Release
September 14, 2011

After Judiciary budget hearing

We discussed the budget of the judiciary amounting to P13.675 billion. The principal issue is the matter of the P2.02 billion of funds for unfilled positions in the judiciary which was placed in the miscellaneous personnel benefits fund. The contention of the DBM is that these funds are part of the judiciary funds and will be automatically released to the judiciary. According to Atty Marquez, the commitment of the DBM is that it is automatically released, without awaiting submission of the appointments to these vacant positions. This is the position taken by the SC and other constitutional bodies--that they enjoy fiscal autonomy, that there should be automatic release of the funds allotted to the constitutional bodies, that this cannot be subjected to the condition that this will only be released upon the filling up of unfilled positions. That is the bone of contention which would have to be resolved at a certain point, hopefully before we finalize the budget.

A concern of the committee is a number of vacancies in our court system. We have 550 judicial positions which are vacant. Some of the vacancies in the judges have been vacant for years. This is a cause for concern because the SC admits that these vacancies--representing about 25% of the total judges position--would affect the disposition rate of the courts. We are concerned about the very serious disposition rate of our courts. Per the report of the court administrator, the percentage of disposal of cases of the entire judiciary is 37.5%. In other words, at the start of 2010, there was a total of 635,150 cases pending in our entire judicial system. Added to that, during the entire year of 2010 was 337,667 cases filed. The number of cases disposed of was only 380,490 or a disposition rate of 37.5%. Out of a total of 1,012,817 cases, only 380,490 has been disposed of, or a disposition rate of 37.5%. That's the average for the entire judiciary. The Sandiganbayan has the lowest disposition rate of 3.86%. This is a stumbling block to the government's effort to prosecute grafters in this government because the cases stay in the SB for an unreasonably long period of time. In other words, out of every 100 cases pending, almost just about 4 would be decided during the year. This gets serious because as we go on, the cases pile up.

Now, the issue of MPBF: we have asked the SC to organize the unorganized courts, authorized but are unorganized. 135 of these laws passed have not been implemented in terms of organizing the courts. We are glad that the court is receptive to the suggestions and agrees that indeed the disposition rate can stand improvement. They will submit to the committee an action plan on how to have a faster rate of disposition.

Q: inaudible

We cannot impose deadlines on the courts, we can only submit this for their consideration. Justices Velasco and Peralta have committed that this matter would be brought to the attention of the court en banc, which, under the Constitution, decides on matters of this nature.

Q: You were asking them earlier to hire...

In fact, I have suggested to them that in order to resolve the issue of MPBF, either wholly or partially, fill up all the vacant positions so that there will be no issue of impounding. This will be automatically funded then there is no more issue on MPBF.

Q: How would you address the concern of SP Enrile that it's a huge pork barrel for the executive?

I disagree. If you say that this is a pork barrel, then if you release it and it is unused, it is also the pork barrel of the judiciary. It takes two to tango. In other words, if we assert that this becomes the pork barrel of the executive, if it is released and it is unused, then it is also the pork barrel of the judiciary. I will not agree with that proposition.

Q: But according to SP Enrile he will not allow yung ganitong sistema, yung pag-impound.

We respect the position of the Senate President. We will take that position to the bicam. We will argue, if that is the position carried by the Senate. We will see what happens.

Q: Kung part ng budget ng SC yung i-impound, at the end of the year whose savings would it be?

If it is released, it is disposed of by the SC. If it's not released, it helps in alleviating the deficit. The Executive cannot use that because that fund is for the judiciary. So if it is not released, assuming that the position of the DBM prevails, then at the end of the year, whatever is the amount that is not released because the positions are unfilled, will correspondingly reduce the deficit... I am not passing judgment here on the legality or constitutionality of this provision. I'm just stating what are the realities that we face here.

Q: So far, ano ang sentiment ng ibang constitutional agencies?

Other constitutional agencies have written us a letter, saying that they have taken the position that this should be automatically released to them, the funds for the unfilled positions. I am referring to the SC, Commission on Elections, CoA, Civil Service Commission.

Q: It is not unconstitutional, yung ganitong system?

The position of the DBM is that it is nto unconstitutional because according to them, this is part of the judiciary budget, automatically released to the agencies concerned.

Q: Other issues, on SC TRO on ARMM.

This is just a temporary restraining order. It is not a decision on the merits. I agree with the SC, pending resolution on the merits of the issue as to whether or not the OICs can be appointed by the President, there is no harm that will result from such deferment of the appointment of the OIC. To me, right now, there is an OIC. The vice governor has taken over the post of the governor. It is just to give the court additional time to resolve the issue on the merits. We accept that. We just hope that the SC can decide on this at the soonest possible time.

Q: Kung by Sept 30, wala pang decision ang SC, holdover capacity muna?

That's correct. That's what the SC said. The operation of the ARMM is not affected by this TRO. The OIC will continue beyond Sept 30 pending decision by the court.

Q: On judiciary budget

The total allocation for the judiciary are the following: P13.036 billion under the regular appropriations of the SC in the judiciary, plus the MPBF of P2.02 billion, plus the total collection under the Judicial Development Fund (JDF) and Special Allowance for Judges (SAJ)... you add P2.113 billion for the JDF and SAJ.

Q: It's not true that it's lower this year?

Depending on how you look at the MPBF allocation. The argument on the one hand, is that this now pertains to the judiciary because it is automatically released to them. On the other hand, the constitutional bodies argue that it is subject to the impoundment of the Executive. So this is an area of conflict in interpretation.

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