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Bigger judiciary budgets eyed

  • Written by Ryan Ponce Pacpaco
  • Published in Top Stories
  • Read: 169

MEMBERS of the House Committee on Appropriations are backing efforts to raise future budgets of the judiciary which would help solve problems bugging the judicial system, particularly delayed resolution of court cases. 

During the hearing on the proposed P32.5 billion budget of the Judiciary for 2017 presided over by appropriations committee vice chairman Rep. Raul del Mar (1st District, Cebu City), Rep. Rodante Marcoleta (Party-list, Sagip) said since 2010, the budget proposals of the judiciary have consistently been cut, which affects its resolution of problems bedeviling the judicial system.
   
“This is a very serious concern because there were many issues raised on the ability of the Judiciary to respond to the requirements and realities of time like delays (in resolution of cases). But the truth is, the budgetary requirements of the judiciary are not met. I’d like to believe this is the principal constraint why the judiciary is not able to address the problems confronting the judicial system,” said Marcoleta.
   
Marcoleta noted that starting in 2010, the judiciary’s budgetary proposal had been cut. In 2010, it asked for a budget of P60 billion, but got P30 billion. Subsequently, it asked for P21 billion but got P14 billion and then P20 billion but got P15 billion.
   
For 2017, or eight years later, Marcoleta said, the judiciary sought a budget of P40.4 billion but got P32.5 billion.
   
“Why did you allow this to happen? For so long a period, you seemed to be courting and courting but was always rejected. Parang ligaw ka nang ligaw palagi kang nabibigo. Mukhang mahirap tanggapin yun. Siguro yung mabigo ka minsan, pwede dahil magtatagumpay ka din naman. You win some, you lose some. Pero dito, puro kayo talo,” said Marcoleta.   
   
He said maybe if the judiciary raised the bar a little, probably to P52 billion, then it might have gotten a budget of P40 billion for next year.
   
The question, according to Marcoleta, is: “Does judicial independence or autonomy clearly reflect this gap between what the judiciary proposed and what it got later?”
   
Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva said as early as 1993, there was already an issuance from the Court regarding the constitutional mandate on judicial independence/fiscal autonomy of the Court wherein what they wanted to happen was that during the submission of the budget proposal, they would submit it to Congress and defend it there.
   
“That would have been the situation that we would have wanted,” said Villanueva.
   
Marcoleta said the present budgetary set-up does not reflect the kind of autonomy the judiciary should enjoy under the Constitution.
   
“To a certain extent, yes, your Honor, we agree,” said Villanueva.
   
Meanwhile, to the question of Rep. Vicente Veloso (3rd District, Leyte) of how many courts are not functional on account of lack of funding, Villanueva said based on their data, a little over five percent because the data are still being processed.
   
“There may be some vacancies in the courts but they are still functional because we designate acting judges to cover them,” said Villanueva.
   
Veloso, however, said the designation of acting judges is more of a problem than a solution because when the judiciary assigns a judge to another branch, then it deprives him of important time to attend to his own cases.