MANILA, Philippines - Judges were planning to go on mass leave to dramatize their protest against President Aquino’s rejection of the judiciary’s request for a bigger budget next year, but court administrator and Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said he was able to dissuade them from doing so.
He said that with their plan to go on mass leave, the judges had hoped to “make their message heard by those in authority.”
“I told them to stay put and just focus on their cases because we are still under negotiation,” Marquez said. There are 2,200 judges in lower courts nationwide.
“As court administrator, I can assure (you) that there will be no mass leave (of judges). I have already spoken to the judges. We have a very strong, meritorious case and I’m quite confident that our pleas will not fall on deaf ears,” Marquez told reporters.
The Palace is pushing for a P14.3-billion budget for the judiciary next year, or a little over half of the P27.1 billion being asked by the judicial branch.
The SC, in a statement last Sunday, warned of “judicial revolt” if the judiciary’s proposal for more than P27 billion is rejected.
“Our courts will continue to function, as they have always functioned fairly and heroically, under extreme stress, and under unfavorable conditions that undermine their judicial independence, efficiency and integrity,” Marquez said. “Many of our judges and justices will continue to use their
own personal computers and printers, repair their own courtrooms, work on weekends to declog their dockets,” he said.
“But until when can they last? Are we waiting for our justices and judges to march the streets, for the judiciary to revolt, for justice to ground to a halt? Are we courting chaos?” the SC statement read.
Marquez also denied the Palace’s claims that the judiciary has not given a full accounting of its collections from court filing fees. He called the accusation “too harsh” and “uncalled for.”
“I would like to think the (statement was) uttered without understanding how the budget process works. We are not hiding anything. I myself presented before Congress how filing fees were used and all these expenditures were submitted to the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) to support our budget for 2011,” Marquez said.
Marquez said the judiciary does not want to resort to increasing the filing fees to augment funds for salaries and allowances of its members.
“The only compromise that we can see here is to increase our budget, maybe not at the level of P27 billion but a substantial increase from the P14 billion the DBM had proposed,” he said.
Marquez earlier revealed that judges and justices have not been receiving their full wages and allowances since 2007.
He said the basic salary of trial court judges ranges from P25,000 to P28,000 a month while the SC, Court of Appeals (CA) and Sandiganbayan judges receive P35,000 to P40,000 monthly.
He said the P2.187 billion raised from legal fees have been equally distributed to the Special Allowance for the Judiciary (SAJ) and the Judicial Development Fund (JDF).
Of the P1.047 billion that went to JDF, 80 percent was spent for the additional cost of living
allowance and salary adjustment of judicial employees and 20 percent for the purchase of equipment, repairs and maintenance of courtrooms.
The entire SAJ went to the allowances of justices of the SC, CA and Sandiganbayan as well as regional, municipal and metropolitan trial court judges.
Eddu Punay, Philippine Star