JUSTICE SERENO REMINDS AQUINO: CONSTITUTION IS SUPREME   

PHOTO Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. RYAN LEAGOGO/INQUIRER.net. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said Thursday that mending ties with all those inconvenienced by the Supreme Court’s decisions would mean not to exercise their constitutional mandate. During the 2nd Meet the Press, Sereno said “the Constitution designed the order of things and by constitutional design, the Judiciary must rule as it should even when and inevitably have to say what acts transgress constitutional boundaries.”  “The repercussions are already beyond the control of the Judiciary. It should not shrink from its constitutional sworn duty even if it may result to inconvenience,” Sereno added. President Aquino, in an interview over Bombo Radyo Philippines, said the Supreme Court should not be allowed to meddle too much. He said the high court is making it hard for the Executive branch to govern. “I have enormous respect for the President and I am sure he also has enormous respect for the Office of the Chief Justice,” Sereno said. She added that she does not read anything into the President’s statement. Sereno also pointed out that in her mind, the Constitution ranks first followed by devotion to duty and loyalty to country.THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: Sereno deplores Aquino’s refusal for additional funds for Judiciary  

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday appealed to Congress to give the money that the Judiciary need to implement reforms as she deplored the Aquino administration stringent funding for the courts. During the 2nd Meet the Press, Sereno said: “To Congress, please give us the reform money we need.” She said while they had accomplished several reforms, more are needed to be done to improve the Judiciary. One of the needs to be addressed, Sereno said, is the rebuilding of courts, especially in typhoon stricken areas, computerization of the Judiciary, among others. She said the Executive branch under the Aquino administration has refused to give them additional funding for their projects. “Any money invested in justice is an investment in Filipino lives…Investing in the Judiciary is never a losing proposition,” Sereno said. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT

ALSO: Palace House allies to SC: We are also supreme   

PHOTO: The new 2011 Malacañang Palace Logo-- “We’re also supreme.” This was the position stated by an administration stalwart as two bills were filed seeking to abolish or reform the Supreme Court’s multibillion-peso Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) ahead of President Aquino’s warning on Monday night of a clash between the executive and the judiciary, and the possibility that the third branch of government, the legislature, might have to step in.
However, the filing of the bills was neither a case of “tit for tat” nor of the executive and legislature ganging up on the judiciary, said Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. “I don’t think so. With all funds under question, it is expected that JDF will also be under scrutiny,” he said in a text message. One of the bills was introduced earlier on Monday by Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., the House justice committee chair, proposing the repeal of a Marcos-era law creating the JDF, described as the judicial version of the pork barrel. In line with SC decision --Another bill was submitted last week by Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, the House justice committee vice chair, who moved to transfer the administration of the fund from the Supreme Court to the Bureau of Treasury.

Tupas told a news forum Tuesday his bill was “not a message” to the Supreme Court. “This is a system at work, of constitutional processes at work. It’s a system of checks and balances. In line with the Supreme Court’s decision that some discretionary funds are unconstitutional, we have to look at the JDF.” Unconstitutional  --“The Supreme Court checked the legislature by declaring the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) unconstitutional; it also checked the executive by declaring the DAP unconstitutional,” Tupas said. Tupas said that in interpreting laws, “the Supreme Court is supreme.”  “I do not agree with its decision on the PDAF, but we are accepting it because the SC is superior within its own sphere,” he said. But within Congress, “we’re also supreme within our own sphere,” he said, referring to its power of the purse. Info very general  --The JDF was created under Presidential Decree No. 1949 some 30 years ago authorizing the judiciary to generate its own funds and to help augment its budgetary requirements for the benefit of personnel, and to help ensure its independence. *READ MORE...

ALSO: Aquino and the Sereno Court  

FROM THE RAPPLER.COM --This is becoming an unwieldy court as far as you're concerned. Cut it some slack, Mr President. Dear Mr President, Do you remember when a petty and, some say, dishonest chief justice stood in the way of your big dreams for the nation? You targeted him for removal and counted on the support of many people who stood by you as you marshaled government resources and spent political capital to make it happen. In the name of cleansing the judiciary, the anti-Corona campaign enjoyed the backing of various sectors with the exception of circles that benefitted from his actions and decisions. Do you remember when one night in Malacañang, as you gathered your inner circle – politicians, bureaucrats, activists, technocrats – to consult them on whether to proceed with the Corona impeachment, you were bombarded with doubts and "proceed with caution" advice? I recall one of your close advisers saying then, "The President is resolute. He knows this is the right thing to do."

What convinced you that you were on the right path despite the concerns raised by the likes of Mar Roxas and Franklin Drilon in that meeting? Simple: The Supreme Court at the time was a damaged, tainted institution led by a chief justice who could not explain his wealth, who loved visiting TV stations to trumpet his achievements, and who was being openly contradicted – in separate opinions at that – by his peers on the bench. A president bent on embarking on fundamental reforms in a litigious society knows better than to live with someone like Renato Corona.And so you got rid of him in a historic impeachment trial that brought 20 – three of them now in jail – solidly behind a "guilty" verdict. This pleased you no end it made you attend the launching of a book by one senator that revised the history of the dark martial law years that prosecuted your own family. The next challenge was to look for a replacement, and on this one you again took great risk and threw caution to the wind. It was a choice between your imagined fears – in the form of Antonio Carpio – and your imagined hopes, as symbolized by Maria Lourdes Sereno.

An appointee of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Carpio founded the often-notorious law firm, Carpio, Villaraza, Cruz, Marcelo, Angangco that has since split into two bickering factions which now only share one thing in common: a pricey building. In contrast, Sereno was a breath of fresh air: she's young, she's without The Firm baggage, she's a feisty woman. What's more, she believes in God, and is liked by your sisters. Ignoring concerns she's too inexperienced to be leading a wounded and divided Court, dismissing worries she would stay too long (18 years) in her post, and gripped by paranoia over Carpio's political history, you chose Sereno to lead the Court – the most junior and the first female to be given that position. She's had a tough time exercising leadership. But what did you expect, Mr President? Eleven of her senior colleagues are all appointees of Arroyo, whom you have blamed for the country's woes. Upon joining the gods of Padre Faura in August 2012, Sereno faced a hostile environment. And it didn't help that she isn't exactly the type who stayed meek in the face of adversaries. Malacañang and Padre Faura But this is now the Sereno Court, Mr President, whether you like it or not. *CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: Sereno sees mutual respect with Aquino 

Just as President Aquino is rightfully enjoying the respect of magistrates, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said she and her office deserve the same from the Chief Executive. “I have enormous respect for the President, and I’m sure he also respects the Office of the Chief Justice,” Sereno said in a press conference on Thursday to mark her second year in office. Sereno evaded a direct clash with Aquino in defending the Supreme Court from his relentless attacks as a result of the high court’s decision declaring certain acts under his Disbursement Acceleration Program unconstitutional. She declined to comment on Aquino’s repeated pronouncements that the judiciary has overstepped its judicial review power and has been meddling too much in the affairs of co-equal branches. “I do not read anything into that,” she replied when asked about the President’s sentiments.

Sereno also explained that as chief justice, she is barred from addressing questions that are political in nature. The SC chief, however, justified the high court’s power of judicial review on acts of co-equal branches of government, citing Article VIII Section 1 of the Constitution. “The Constitution designed the order of things and by constitutional design, the judiciary must rule as it should, even when (we) inevitably have to say what acts transgress constitutional boundaries,” she stressed. “The repercussions are already beyond the control of the judiciary. It should not shrink from its constitutional sworn duty even if it may result to inconvenience,” Sereno added. The Chief Justice lamented that the balance of power in government does not favor the judiciary, reiterating the high court’s appeal for a bigger budget. “The balance of power is amorphous. Budget shows we don’t have balance of power in our favor,” she lamented, citing the less than one percent of the total national budget allocated by the executive and legislative branches to the courts. Sereno lamented that key reform programs, including creation of more electronic courts, are being imperiled by lack of funds. “E-courts provide for random electronic system and raffling, which remove human intermediation that makes courts prone to corruption. The problem is that the executive department deleted our request for funding of more e-courts,” she said. Amid what she called an imbalance in power, Sereno appealed to the public to continue believing in the judiciary. “Judiciary is strong if the people believe in it… I hope the people will work for a strong and independent judiciary,” she added. *READ MORE...

ALSO: Congress can reform the Judiciary Fund – Belmonte  

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has supported the assertion of his colleagues that Congress can amend the law creating the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) to introduce reforms in its use by the Supreme Court (SC). “Yes, we in Congress have the right to review it. We can even put restrictions,” he said in a television interview. The SC has opposed moves in the House of Representatives to inquire into the JDF, which congressmen have labeled as the high court’s pork barrel. The fund is under the sole discretion of the chief justice. There are two pending bills that seek to remove such discretion – transfer the fund to the national treasury and let Congress appropriate the money to where it is now being used. However, unlike other collections that go to the treasury, not a single cent of the JDF would go to other agencies. It would all continue to be allocated to the judiciary, including courthouses, equipment and facilities. SC officers have claimed that such reforms would contravene the judiciary’s fiscal autonomy and independence, which the Constitution guarantees.

The House committee on justice, chaired by Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., will resume its JDF inquiry after disposing of the three pending impeachment complaints against President Aquino. Tupas and his senior vice chairman, Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, have vowed to overhaul the SC fund. They are the authors of the two bills seeking reforms in the use of the JDF. As for the appeal of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for Congress to give additional funds to the judiciary, Belmonte was non-committal. President Aquino has increased his proposed funding for the judiciary for next year by more than P900 million, even if he has been criticizing the SC decision on his controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Belmonte said the problem with increasing the budget for the SC and other courts for a particular year is that the increased level would have to be automatically given in the succeeding year. “The Constitution prescribes that we cannot reduce the budget of the judiciary,” he said.


READ FULL REPORT HERE:

Sereno reminds Aquino: Constitution is supreme


Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Maria Lourdes Sereno -RYAN LEAGOGO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, SEPTMEBR 1, 2014 (INQUIRER) By Tetch Torres-Tupas - Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said Thursday that mending ties with all those inconvenienced by the Supreme Court’s decisions would mean not to exercise their constitutional mandate.

During the 2nd Meet the Press, Sereno said “the Constitution designed the order of things and by constitutional design, the Judiciary must rule as it should even when and inevitably have to say what acts transgress constitutional boundaries.”

“The repercussions are already beyond the control of the Judiciary. It should not shrink from its constitutional sworn duty even if it may result to inconvenience,” Sereno added.

President Aquino, in an interview over Bombo Radyo Philippines, said the Supreme Court should not be allowed to meddle too much. He said the high court is making it hard for the Executive branch to govern.

“I have enormous respect for the President and I am sure he also has enormous respect for the Office of the Chief Justice,” Sereno said.

She added that she does not read anything into the President’s statement.

Sereno also pointed out that in her mind, the Constitution ranks first followed by devotion to duty and loyalty to country.

Sereno deplores Aquino’s refusal for additional funds for Judiciary By Tetch Torres-Tupas |INQUIRER.net3:51 pm | Thursday, August 28th, 2014


Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday appealed to Congress to give the money that the Judiciary need to implement reforms as she deplored the Aquino administration stringent funding for the courts.

During the 2nd Meet the Press, Sereno said: “To Congress, please give us the reform money we need.”

She said while they had accomplished several reforms, more are needed to be done to improve the Judiciary.

One of the needs to be addressed, Sereno said, is the rebuilding of courts, especially in typhoon stricken areas, computerization of the Judiciary, among others.

She said the Executive branch under the Aquino administration has refused to give them additional funding for their projects.

“Any money invested in justice is an investment in Filipino lives…Investing in the Judiciary is never a losing proposition,” Sereno said.

Palace House allies to SC: We are also supreme By DJ Yap |Philippine Daily Inquirer4:01 am | Wednesday, July 16th, 2014


The new 2011 Malacañang Palace Logo

MANILA, Philippines–“We’re also supreme.”

This was the position stated by an administration stalwart as two bills were filed seeking to abolish or reform the Supreme Court’s multibillion-peso Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) ahead of President Aquino’s warning on Monday night of a clash between the executive and the judiciary, and the possibility that the third branch of government, the legislature, might have to step in.

However, the filing of the bills was neither a case of “tit for tat” nor of the executive and legislature ganging up on the judiciary, said Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. “I don’t think so. With all funds under question, it is expected that JDF will also be under scrutiny,” he said in a text message.

One of the bills was introduced earlier on Monday by Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., the House justice committee chair, proposing the repeal of a Marcos-era law creating the JDF, described as the judicial version of the pork barrel.

In line with SC decision

Another bill was submitted last week by Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, the House justice committee vice chair, who moved to transfer the administration of the fund from the Supreme Court to the Bureau of Treasury.

Tupas told a news forum Tuesday his bill was “not a message” to the Supreme Court. “This is a system at work, of constitutional processes at work. It’s a system of checks and balances. In line with the Supreme Court’s decision that some discretionary funds are unconstitutional, we have to look at the JDF.”

Unconstitutional

“The Supreme Court checked the legislature by declaring the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) unconstitutional; it also checked the executive by declaring the DAP unconstitutional,” Tupas said.

Tupas said that in interpreting laws, “the Supreme Court is supreme.”

“I do not agree with its decision on the PDAF, but we are accepting it because the SC is superior within its own sphere,” he said. But within Congress, “we’re also supreme within our own sphere,” he said, referring to its power of the purse.

Info very general

The JDF was created under Presidential Decree No. 1949 some 30 years ago authorizing the judiciary to generate its own funds and to help augment its budgetary requirements for the benefit of personnel, and to help ensure its independence.

* The Supreme Court earlier said the JDF was open to public scrutiny and already accessible on its website.

But Tupas said the information on the website was “very general.”

“It does not even itemize the entire fund,” he said.

In 1984, for instance, he said the judiciary could only source its funds from the increase of legal fees.

“But in 1999, the Supreme Court, by judicial legislation, expanded the coverage of the JDF, through an en banc resolution, by including sales of equipment, records, rentals, fees collected from bar candidates, interest from deposits of income… interest of money paid to clerks of court, confiscated cash bonds, satisfaction of budget against cash bonds,” he said.

“This is in the billions of pesos,” Tupas claimed.

He said public accountability should trump the judiciary’s so-called fiscal autonomy. He added that the judiciary’s fiscal autonomy only referred to its regular budget, not “fringe benefits” like the JDF.

JDF abolition sought

In his bill, Tupas proposed the abolition of the JDF and the creation of a “Judicial Special Fund,” which would only be released upon the submission by the Supreme Court of an “itemized special budget,” and subject to a quarterly audit by the Commission on Audit.

On the other hand, Fariñas’ bill sought only an amendment to PD 1949, and, similar to Tupas’ proposal, the remittance of all fees and collections in the judiciary to the national treasury.

The United Nationalist Alliance secretary general, Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, said the move to investigate the JDF clearly had the intent of pressuring the high tribunal.

Being bullied

“Even the Supreme Court is now being bullied and threatened by the heavy hand of the state,” Tiangco said in a statement.

“What will happen to checks and balances if the President wants his way? What will happen to the high court when it becomes impotent? When the rule of law is given the cold shoulder by the President who is supposed to defend it, can we still find refuge in the law? This is a dangerous precedent,” Tiangco said.

FROM THE RAPPLER.COM

Aquino and the Sereno Court Glenda M. Gloria Published 1:02 PM, Jul 23, 2014 Updated 2:51 PM, Jul 24, 2014

This is becoming an unwieldy court as far as you're concerned. Cut it some slack, Mr President.

Dear Mr President,

Do you remember when a petty and, some say, dishonest chief justice stood in the way of your big dreams for the nation? You targeted him for removal and counted on the support of many people who stood by you as you marshaled government resources and spent political capital to make it happen. In the name of cleansing the judiciary, the anti-Corona campaign enjoyed the backing of various sectors with the exception of circles that benefitted from his actions and decisions.

Do you remember when one night in Malacañang, as you gathered your inner circle – politicians, bureaucrats, activists, technocrats – to consult them on whether to proceed with the Corona impeachment, you were bombarded with doubts and "proceed with caution" advice? I recall one of your close advisers saying then, "The President is resolute. He knows this is the right thing to do."

What convinced you that you were on the right path despite the concerns raised by the likes of Mar Roxas and Franklin Drilon in that meeting? Simple: The Supreme Court at the time was a damaged, tainted institution led by a chief justice who could not explain his wealth, who loved visiting TV stations to trumpet his achievements, and who was being openly contradicted – in separate opinions at that – by his peers on the bench. A president bent on embarking on fundamental reforms in a litigious society knows better than to live with someone like Renato Corona.

And so you got rid of him in a historic impeachment trial that brought 20 – three of them now in jail – solidly behind a "guilty" verdict. This pleased you no end it made you attend the launching of a book by one senator that revised the history of the dark martial law years that prosecuted your own family.

The next challenge was to look for a replacement, and on this one you again took great risk and threw caution to the wind. It was a choice between your imagined fears – in the form of Antonio Carpio – and your imagined hopes, as symbolized by Maria Lourdes Sereno.

An appointee of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Carpio founded the often-notorious law firm, Carpio, Villaraza, Cruz, Marcelo, Angangco that has since split into two bickering factions which now only share one thing in common: a pricey building. In contrast, Sereno was a breath of fresh air: she's young, she's without The Firm baggage, she's a feisty woman. What's more, she believes in God, and is liked by your sisters.

Ignoring concerns she's too inexperienced to be leading a wounded and divided Court, dismissing worries she would stay too long (18 years) in her post, and gripped by paranoia over Carpio's political history, you chose Sereno to lead the Court – the most junior and the first female to be given that position.

She's had a tough time exercising leadership. But what did you expect, Mr President? Eleven of her senior colleagues are all appointees of Arroyo, whom you have blamed for the country's woes. Upon joining the gods of Padre Faura in August 2012, Sereno faced a hostile environment. And it didn't help that she isn't exactly the type who stayed meek in the face of adversaries.

Malacañang and Padre Faura

But this is now the Sereno Court, Mr President, whether you like it or not.

* This is the court you tried to reform by putting in fresh and competent blood – not only through Sereno but through the 3 appointees you've made since you became president. This is a court that still has Arroyo loyalists, yes, but nonetheless a court that's not impervious to presidential power, especially one which emanates from a popular leader.

Whatever is said about imperial presidencies or executive power, the fact is your campaign against Corona gained traction because of the message it carried about the necessary wall between Malacañang and Padre Faura. You weeded out Corona principally not because he's reportedly corrupt or incompetent. You weeded him out because he could not say no to the president who appointed him there. It's a message that was relevant then, it's a message that becomes more relevant now that you're at the helm.

You cannot possibly shake this institution by your single-mindedness against its former chief and then not cut it some slack after. With the Philippine judiciary still in a difficult transition from the Corona period, is it safe to believe that you've had some basic assumptions after your triumph over him? Foremost of which is the fact that you don't have total control of the Supreme Court. But you're not Gloria Arroyo, and so it seemed this would not bother you. The High Tribunal has about least 6 or 7 independent, sharp minds. By the time you step down in 2016, you would have 5 or at most 6 appointees (should Justice Martin Villarama Jr choose to retire ahead of the election appointment ban in 2016) in the 15-member bench. The number isn't so good, but it isn't so bad either.

Pundits and well-meaning people saw nothing wrong in your July 14 speech attacking the justices, arguing that you were exercising presidential prerogative to explain the much-maligned Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to your bosses, the people who voted for you.

They say you merely wanted to explain your side first before going through the motions of filing an appeal, which your bosses would not be able to read much less comprehend with all its legal jargon. It is an exercise of presidential power that no one should deprive you of.

But to a journalist like myself who keenly watched the long days and nights before, during and after the Corona trial, it was the message you carried during that difficult period that suffered the biggest blow in that speech.

For what happened before the DAP decision?

When petitioners questioned DAP before the High Court last year, some justices kept an open mind about it. If you have doubts, just review the oral arguments that took place in October 2013. Sensing the case could go either way, you sent your lieutenants to lobby the Court. Some of the justices empathized with your concern about a judicial attack on a budget program that was meant to do good. SC justices, after all, don't make up their minds in a vacuum; they don't just bury their heads in their journals and talk to their walls in their chambers. Of course they pick up the phone when your conduit calls. Of course they meet up with him or her to listen to the nuanced message you'd like to send them. They can even send indirect advice on how your lawyers should proceed to avoid an embarrassing defeat. Were these done before the DAP verdict came out? Insiders tell us yes.

It took awhile for the justices to finally arrive at a decision, but when they did it was unanimous. Thirteen resounding votes (with one abstention; there's one vacant seat at the Court).

Surely, this could not have been a conspiracy against you involving your own appointees to the Court? But I suspect you think it is.

Part of the reason was the information peddled to you that the ponente of the SC decision, Lucas Bersamin, inserted paragraphs that questioned your administration's good faith and which the other justices who concurred with the ponencia were reportedly unable to see or correct. Ateneo School of Government Dean lawyer Antonio La Viña said as much in his Facebook post days after your speech: "…the liability paragraph in the decision, which seems to flip the presumption of regularity and good faith, is obiter, not binding and not controlling. It seems that the paragraph in a question is a last-minute insertion because textually it does not jibe with the discussion of the doctrine of operative facts. But even if the whole Court agreed to that (and the truth is that unlike the Corona years when there were very public dissents on such insertions, eg. then Justice Sereno on the GMA TRO, the present court did agree to this), it does not mean anything. Liability will be decided by a very different Supreme Court years from now. If the anger of the president was because of this paragraph, then again he was wrongly advised."

It certainly could be used by critics to later file cases against you, and they have in fact used it. It certainly raises questions about Sereno's leadership, because why did she and the other decent justices allow this insertion to happen? Some of your legal advisers told you: If this is the case, what makes them so different from the Corona court, which issued a questionable temporary restraining order on the justice department's hold departure order against Mrs Arroyo in November 2012 ? You dropped hints about it in your speech when you told the justices, "You had done something similar in the past, and you tried to do it again."

Well, for one, Mr President, the Arroyo TRO under Corona was one messy issue. (READ: Arroyo TRO: What happened behind the scenes) Two justices at the time - Sereno and Carpio - issued separate dissents. The interpretation of the mangled TRO by the confused spokesman then, Midas Marquez, was roundly disputed by these two justices. In my layman's mind, that mess of a TRO had immediate impact on the ground, on the arrest - or non-arrest - of Corona's patron, Mrs Arroyo. This DAP insertion, on the other hand, is feeble and as La Viña put it, an obiter.

Agitated lawyers, of course, would see it differently and tell you otherwise. In your speech, you issued a veiled threat: "My message to the Supreme Court: We do not want two equal branches of government to go head to head, needing a third branch to step in to intervene."

A president equipped with the big picture and blessed with good memory would rise above it and use a more sophisticated approach to the standoff. That was a basic expectation for someone who enjoyed tremendous public support when he whipped the judiciary and used executive and legislative power to cut off its head. The basic assumption is that such tools are to be seldom used – if at all.

Two incidents

This presidency-under-siege state was apparently exacerbated by two events prior to the DAP verdict which provide a fitting backdrop to your speech.

Because of incompetence or forgetfulness, Malacañang lawyers completely forgot that the deadline for you to appoint a new Sandiganbayan justice was about to lapse in June 2014. Reminded about it, they had to review the short list that was long ago submitted by the Sereno-led Judicial and Bar Council (JBC). The executive secretary returned the list to the JBC - a no-no in this case. Sereno told him so in a straightforward letter that probably made him cringe and which she made public.

Thus you had no choice but to choose from the list originally given to you.

Weeks later, it was the turn of one of your favored nominees to a vacant SC post, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, to be shamed at the JBC. This was Jardeleza's third attempt to join the highest court of the land. But it was Sereno herself who apparently opposed his nomination.

To make matters worse, the justice you bypassed, Carpio, testified against Jardeleza before the JBC. The senior justice reportedly questioned the solicitor general's insistence to remove certain portions in the Philippine government's pleading against China that was sent to the arbitral tribunal, that apparently cast doubts on Jardeleza's patriotism. Told about this by the JBC on June 30, Jardeleza went ballistic and told reporters he wanted a fair trial to explain himself. The council would hear none of it. And so the Sereno-led JBC gave you a shortlist that did not contain one of your favored would-be justices. (Undaunted and emboldened by your support, Jardeleza is now asking the Court to put him back on the list.)

It is safe to assume these played out as you decided to give that speech.

This is becoming an unwieldy court as far as you're concerned. You have the right to think you deserved better because of the great risks you took to reform it. But this Supreme Court probably has the right, too, to think they deserved better precisely for the same reasons.

Mr President, cut it some slack. - Rappler.com

FROM PINOYWEEKLY.COM

Sereno sees mutual respect with Aquino August 29, 2014 News


Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno

MANILA – Just as President Aquino is rightfully enjoying the respect of magistrates, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said she and her office deserve the same from the Chief Executive.

“I have enormous respect for the President, and I’m sure he also respects the Office of the Chief Justice,” Sereno said in a press conference on Thursday to mark her second year in office.

Sereno evaded a direct clash with Aquino in defending the Supreme Court from his relentless attacks as a result of the high court’s decision declaring certain acts under his Disbursement Acceleration Program unconstitutional.

She declined to comment on Aquino’s repeated pronouncements that the judiciary has overstepped its judicial review power and has been meddling too much in the affairs of co-equal branches.

“I do not read anything into that,” she replied when asked about the President’s sentiments.

Sereno also explained that as chief justice, she is barred from addressing questions that are political in nature.

The SC chief, however, justified the high court’s power of judicial review on acts of co-equal branches of government, citing Article VIII Section 1 of the Constitution.

“The Constitution designed the order of things and by constitutional design, the judiciary must rule as it should, even when (we) inevitably have to say what acts transgress constitutional boundaries,” she stressed.

“The repercussions are already beyond the control of the judiciary. It should not shrink from its constitutional sworn duty even if it may result to inconvenience,” Sereno added.

The Chief Justice lamented that the balance of power in government does not favor the judiciary, reiterating the high court’s appeal for a bigger budget.

“The balance of power is amorphous. Budget shows we don’t have balance of power in our favor,” she lamented, citing the less than one percent of the total national budget allocated by the executive and legislative branches to the courts.

Sereno lamented that key reform programs, including creation of more electronic courts, are being imperiled by lack of funds.

“E-courts provide for random electronic system and raffling, which remove human intermediation that makes courts prone to corruption. The problem is that the executive department deleted our request for funding of more e-courts,” she said.

Amid what she called an imbalance in power, Sereno appealed to the public to continue believing in the judiciary.

“Judiciary is strong if the people believe in it… I hope the people will work for a strong and independent judiciary,” she added.

* Sereno also held a press conference last year to mark her first year, breaking from her self-imposed tradition of “dignified silence.”

Transparent

She also stressed that the SC has been transparent regarding the wealth of its justices and that lifestyle check may no longer be needed.

Sereno said she does not understand why some quarters are still pushing for transparency in the assets of magistrates when they have already publicly released their statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

“Our SALN is already publicly scrutinized. What else is the reason for doubting the wealth of the justices? What information do we need to show to prove that we’re not hiding anything? I don’t understand the reason for that,” she said in Filipino.

Sereno also said that the current system of releasing SALNs is governed by guidelines issued by the SC in 2012 in the wake of the impeachment of then chief justice Renato Corona.

“This is a major improvement over the previous regime that prohibited the release of SALNs except in exceptional cases,” she said.

Sereno also revealed that the Office of Ombudsman could conduct discrete investigation, having been given the power to do so.

But the SC chief stressed that calls for lifestyle check of justices would be difficult to implement.

“The problem with that is will it be done to all officials of government or will it target just the members of the Supreme Court?” she pointed out.

Sereno also explained that such proposal would require consensus among all members of the judiciary – including magistrates in appellate courts and judges in lower courts.

“Some justices are okay with a lifestyle check, some may not be okay so you have to build consensus and every step has to be fully discussed,” she added, citing the collegial nature of the SC.

Still, she said the high court is considering other ways to further improve transparency.

“Every step has to be fully discussed. Give us a little rest, it has just been two years,” she said.

Sereno made the statement several days after the SC ruled with finality junking the request of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares for copies of the SALNs of the SC justices as well as those from the Court of Appeals and the Court of Tax Appeals.

Sereno said this should not be misconstrued as lack of transparency on the part of the SC.

In the ruling, the SC stressed that the investigative power of the tax bureau is not absolute because its authority to assess and collect taxes is limited under the National Internal Revenue Code.

The SC also said the BIR “failed to allege in particularity who she seeks to investigate” and that the bureau “had not given notice to those supposedly being investigated that they are being accused of fraud.”

The SC further explained that the provision in the NIRC used by the BIR in making the request “does not authorize the acquisition of any information or an investigation prior to an assessment of tax deficiency and that it should never be construed to authorize the conduct of a fishing expedition to hunt for any supposed tax liability.”

Meanwhile, Aquino stressed that what he is more concerned about is clipping the judiciary’s powers, particularly over political issues.

“What is judicial reach? During the time of martial law, if somebody would ask: Is martial law right? The Supreme Court would answer: It’s a political question. We’d rather not touch it,” he said in Filipino.

He said House allies and even retired SC justices have complained about what he called “judicial reach,” a power which they believe should be used “with restraint.”

However, Aquino pointed out that these days, it seems to be used quite frequently.

FROM PHILSTAR

Congress can reform the JudiciaryDevpt Fund – Belmonte By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 31, 2014 - 12:00am 2 186 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has supported the assertion of his colleagues that Congress can amend the law creating the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) to introduce reforms in its use by the Supreme Court (SC).

“Yes, we in Congress have the right to review it. We can even put restrictions,” he said in a television interview.

The SC has opposed moves in the House of Representatives to inquire into the JDF, which congressmen have labeled as the high court’s pork barrel. The fund is under the sole discretion of the chief justice.

There are two pending bills that seek to remove such discretion – transfer the fund to the national treasury and let Congress appropriate the money to where it is now being used.

However, unlike other collections that go to the treasury, not a single cent of the JDF would go to other agencies. It would all continue to be allocated to the judiciary, including courthouses, equipment and facilities.

SC officers have claimed that such reforms would contravene the judiciary’s fiscal autonomy and independence, which the Constitution guarantees.

The House committee on justice, chaired by Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., will resume its JDF inquiry after disposing of the three pending impeachment complaints against President Aquino.

Tupas and his senior vice chairman, Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, have vowed to overhaul the SC fund. They are the authors of the two bills seeking reforms in the use of the JDF.

As for the appeal of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for Congress to give additional funds to the judiciary, Belmonte was non-committal.

President Aquino has increased his proposed funding for the judiciary for next year by more than P900 million, even if he has been criticizing the SC decision on his controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Belmonte said the problem with increasing the budget for the SC and other courts for a particular year is that the increased level would have to be automatically given in the succeeding year.

“The Constitution prescribes that we cannot reduce the budget of the judiciary,” he said.

* Belmonte said funds, if included in the judiciary outlay, would have to be automatically given in the succeeding year even if the purpose for which the money was appropriated has been accomplished.

He pointed out that this was the reason why Congress included funding for courthouses in the budget of the Department of Justice.

The speaker noted that some local government units extend financial assistance in the construction of halls of justice.

However, he said the legislature would have to be careful in including funds for court facilities in the budget of the DOJ or any executive agency because of the SC ruling on DAP.

The ruling prohibits “cross-border” fund transfers from one branch of the government to another.

It would also disallow LGU assistance, including allowances for judges, according to congressmen who have been local officials.

Regional trial court and metropolitan trial court judges reportedly receive between P30,000 to P50,000 a month in additional allowances from LGUs, on top of what they are getting from the JDF.

To avoid going against the SC prohibition against cross-border fund transfers, Belmonte said what Congress could do in the case of court buildings would be to pass a separate law providing funds for such facilities.

He shared some of Aquino’s and his colleagues’ criticisms on the DAP ruling.

“Actually, the prohibited practices in DAP have been there since time immemorial. There were actually good things and much has been accomplished through DAP,” he said.

Belmonte cited the ruling on government savings, which the SC said should be declared only in November and December.

“At that point, what can you do with the money? Nothing. I was vice chairman of the House appropriations committee during the FVR (Ramos) presidency. At that time, they required agencies at the start of the year to withhold a portion of their funds as savings,” he said.

‘No request to fund eCourts’

The SC did not make any request to fund its electronic courts (eCourts) this year and in 2015 so the Department of Budget and Management was not able to allocate money for the project, Malacañang clarified yesterday.

Earlier, Sereno said the executive department did not give the high court any budget for the project.

Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the executive branch supported the SC’s information technology project dubbed Enterprise Information Systems Plan (EISP).

The EISP, a five-year project worth P774.6 million that started in 2010, aims to digitize SC processes to speed up litigation of cases, according to Valte. – With Aurea Calica


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

© Copyright, 2014 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE