Senator Leila de Lima wants LGUs stopped from providing allowances to judges, prosecutors

Published August 11, 2019, 7:21 PM

by Martin Sadongdong & Antonio Colina

By Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Leila de Lima has filed a bill that aims to strengthen the independence of the country’s justice institutions by removing local government units’ (LGU) the authority to provide discretionary allowances to judges and public prosecutors.

Senator Leila de Lima (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Leila de Lima

In pushing for Senate Bill No. 782, or the proposed “Justice Institutions Independence Protection Act,” De Lima said Congress must help in providing for a strong and independent judicial system by clipping politicians’ power to exert extra pressure against court officials.

“The discretionary allowance to national government officials stationed in local government units has been, in many situations, used by local governments to exercise political patronage over such officials,” De Lima said in a statement Sunday.

“This is especially dangerous to judges and public prosecutors because they may be placed in a position in which they have to rule on or prosecute a case against said LGUs or their officials,” she added.

The former justice secretary also noted that another “unintended effect” of the discretionary allowance to the judges and public prosecutors is that qualified candidates tend to prioritize more affluent LGUs which provide more allowances.

“The less fortunate LGUs tend to have a hard time attracting judges and public prosecutors,” De Lima pointed out.

The measure seeks ensures a “Justice System Independence Allowance,” which is 10 percent of their basic monthly salary, shall be given to the judges and public prosecutors stationed in the LGUs to offset their lost income.

The said Justice Institution Independence Allowance for covered officials shall not be subject to tax.

The measure also requires the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prepare a comprehensive plan to transfer their offices out of any building or facility owned by LGUs to prevent any possible conflict regarding occupancy.