SC on House probe: Spare us while we review DAP ruling
MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) asked the House of Representatives to spare its members from a congressional hearing into the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) while the tribunal deliberates on Malacañang's motion for the reversal of an unfavorable ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
In a letter to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr dated August 13, Wednesday, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said the invitation for judiciary members to attend a "meeting" on lawmakers' proposals to either abolish or overhaul the use of the JDF should come at a "better time."
She said the invitation "comes on the heels of two decisions by the Supreme Court involving national budget practices and legislation, the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) and DAP cases."
The congressional investigation that seeks to determine misuse of the judiciary's fund, even its possible abolition, started after the President Benigno Aquino III warned the SC of an intervention from another branch of government when the court struck down last July some parts of the Palace's controversial spending program.
Before it ruled the DAP as partially unconstitutional, the high court in November 2013 also declared unconstitutional lawmakers' discretionary PDAF. It was learned later that lawmakers also got funds from the DAP.
Motions for reconsideration filed by multiple parties to have the SC ruling on DAP reversed are still pending before the high court.
Sereno asked Belmonte not to involve any member, official, or employee of the judiciary in the ongoing deliberations on the JDF proposals until the SC resolves the motions.
She said arguments aired by critics of the JDF in Congress bear similarities with the points to be deliberated upon by SC in the pending motions for reconsideration.
"I make this request in light of the questions that have been propounded in the committee hearing that was held on August 5, 2014, as well as some statements made by several legislators thereafter, including by sponsors of the two bills on the JDF," the letter read.
"In a real sense, arguments that more properly belong in a motion for reconsideration, are likely to be prompted in the committee hearings, with members or officials of the Supreme Court," the letter read further.
Two proposals are being deliberated upon by the House of Representatives. Iloilo Representative Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr of the ruling Liberal Party filed a bill seeking to abolish the JDF, while Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Fariñas of the Nacionalista Party also proposed the SC to remit the JDF to the national treasury.
The JDF – a 30-year-old fund sourced from legal fees collected by the judiciary – has been the subject of close scrutiny after the SC released its ruling on DAP.
The DAP was a spending program meant to pump-prime the economy. Without going through Congress and in violation of the Constitution, it declared savings from department budgets before yearend and transferred them to other programs in other agencies and branches of the government.
A report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism showed the highest amounts released from the DAP went to the districts of Liberal Party stalwarts and allies. – Rappler.com