Aquino: Justices must disclose wealth, JDF use
MANILA, Philippines – Citing the need to promote transparency in government, President Benigno Aquino III said justices of the Supreme Court (SC) have to make public their Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), as well as disclose how the discretionary Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) is used.
This is what he said in an exclusive interview with TV5 – to be aired in full on Sunday, August 17 – wherein he also disclosed, for the first time, that he is open to amending the Constitution to clip what he perceives to be an abuse of judicial reach.
“Ano bang pumapasok? Saan ba napupunta? Dahil trabaho nga nung Kongreso naman 'yon,” Aquino said in pushing the disclosure of justices' SALN and the utilization of the JDF. (What’s coming in? Where is it going? Because [tracing it] is the job of Congress.)
His statement is a sign of support for the move of his allies at the House of Representatives to probe the SC’s use of the JDF which was met with opposition by the High Court.
Aquino also said justices should not be exempt from disclosing their SALNs since the Constitution mandates that all public officials file their own statements. In 2011, Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached for discrepancies in his SALNs.
The relationship between the President and the Supreme Court deteriorated after the high tribunal declared unconstitutional parts of the administration’s controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). The spending program was meant to pump-prime the economy starting 2011, but it violated constitutional provisions on the utilization of savings.
The Judicial and Bar Council, which is chaired by the Chief Justice, has also excluded from the short list for new justices Aquino's favored candidate, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza.
Aquino admitted in the TV5 interview that he began considering the possibility of charter change after recent events. But he also said he does not want a constitutional crisis over DAP.
“We’re trying to be a father of the nation that promotes peace among everyone. Pero may nagsasabi na rin sa akin, ‘Matapos kang sinampal-sampalin, ininsulto’t niyurakan, ihaharap mo ‘yung kabilang pisngi.’ Sabi ko, ‘Kesa naman magkagulo-gulo tayo. Importante yatang walang fried chicken,’” Aquino said.
(But some have told me, ‘After you’ve been slapped, insulted, criticized, are you giving them your other cheek?’ I said, ‘It’s better than everyone fighting. It’s important that we set aside our pride.) – Rappler.com