The House of Representatives terminated Wednesday its plenary deliberations on the Judiciary’s proposed P43.54-billion budget for 2021, with calls to restore its original spending proposal, including the continued grant of special allowances to the members of the Judiciary.
Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte Jr. moved for the termination of the debates on the Judiciary’s budget.
Deputy Majority Leader and Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, who sponsored the Judiciary’s budget, cited the need to restore the Judiciary’s original proposed budget of P55.88 billion for next year. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only granted them P43.54 billion under the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for next year.
“The difference is quite big, quite noticeable…I’m sure we all agree if we add to their budget to their proposed budget if we give it to them, then they will be able to work in a better way,” Arroyo said.
Bayan Muna partylist Reps. Ferdinand Gaite and Carlos Isagani Zarate pushed to augment the Judiciary’s budget for 2021.
Gaite said for next year, there is no increase in the number of authorized positions and more than 12,000 positions in the Judiciary “remain unfilled.”
He said the “double-digit vacancies” in the third branch of government can be addressed by increasing its budget.
“Sa tamang pagakakataon ay imumungkahi ng kinatawaan na ito na irestore o hindi kaya ilapit ang budget as based dun sa proposal (At the proper time, this representation will propose to restore or match the budget as based to the original budget)…so that hopefully we can reach the single digit (vacancy). But, right now, the 30 percent unfilled position or vacancy rate does not bode well for our Judiciary,” Gaite said.
Zarate questioned the special appropriations provision that scraps the grant of the special allowance to the justices and judges, among other positions in the Judiciary.
“Dati may special allowance na binibigay sa kanila dahil na rin sa kanilang gawain, pero under this special provision, by 2021 ay aalisin na ito,” he said.
(Before special allowance has been granted to them because of their tasks, but under this special provision, by 2021, this will be scrapped)
Arroyo assured Zarate that they would push for the rewording and deletion of such special provision.
“We fully agree with you…I am not only amenable, but I am grateful for your suggestion,” he said.
During the budget hearing of the House Committee on Appropriations last Sept. 10, Supreme Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said instead of the P12.34 billion slashed in the NEP, they are only requesting the House to help them restore the P6.58-billion budget that was slashed from their proposed budget for 2021.
The slashed budget allocation will cover the pension gratuity fund, P2.4 billion; COVID-related expenditures, P400 million; maintenance of Halls of Justice, P558 million; additional allocations for expenditures of the Court of Appeals, P994.5 million; Sandiganbayan, P406.4 million; Court of Tax Appeals,P98.5 million, and President Electoral Tribunal, P15.35 million.