Press Release
September 15, 2010


Malacanang should immediately meet with Supreme Court (SC) to avert a looming constitutional crisis over the judiciary's warning of a revolt due to a reduced budget for 2011, Senator Chiz Escudero today said.

This after President Benigno S. Aquino said he might seek a meeting with SC Justice Renato Corona to discuss the issue.

Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on justice commended the president for timely reaching out to the judiciary before the issue gets out of hand but he also suggests that the meeting takes place soon.

"While I do not agree with our judges on their threat of a mass leave from courts to stress their point, it is wise that these co-equal branches sit down now and thresh out the issue. This is a tricky matter given the legal and constitutional dynamics that surround it".

Escudero was referring to the May 4, 2010 decision of the Supreme Court en banc (A.M. No. 017-5-10-SC) which was final and executory.

In it the SC ordered the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) "to issue the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and the corresponding Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) to cover funding requirements for the salary increases authorized under EO Nos. 611, 719 and 811 of justices, judges and judiciary officials".

"There goes the trouble. The SC said DBM should release the funding but DBM says charge it to your Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) and the Special Allowance for the Judiciary (SAJ)".

Given the court order, Escudero said the DBM, either aware of but ignored the court, or totally oblivious of the decision, "seem to have made a unilateral and motu propio decision in slashing the judiciary budget".

Escudero said the judiciary was not consulted by the DBM about the budget cut after they gave their budget proposal.

"Technically, I do not think that the DBM is empowered to decide these matters solely on its own. The executive and the judicial are co-equal branches of the government. At the end of the day, it will of course pass through Congress. This situation could have been avoided if dialogues ensued between the SC perhaps and the DBM or at least they were given ample and adequate notice about the reduction in their proposed budget".

He went on to say that the SC and DBM could have talked about what would be acceptable, what would be a middle ground, what would be their priorities. "The problem here is, once the budget is submitted to Congress, it is already a zero-sum game, you cannot add to the budget ceiling anymore. The only way you can increase an allocation for a particular agency is to reduce an allocation from another agency. Then you would be inviting new problems".

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