JDF probe ill-timed, solons cautioned

  • July 20, 2014
  • Written by Ryan Ponce Pacpaco
  • Published in Nation

HOUSE independent minority bloc leader and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez yesterday cautioned his colleagues on scrutinizing the billions of pesos of so-called judiciary’s pork barrel fund.

Romualdez, a lawyer, said such move could be misconstrued as direct attempt to get back at members of the Supreme Court following its adverse ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Romualdez clarified that there was nothing wrong with calling for the full-accounting of the controversial P1.775-billion Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) for good governance, but stressed that the inquiry was ill-timed.

“From the very beginning, I am for fiscal reforms and I support   transparency and accountability of all public funds, including auditing the JDF. But I caution my colleagues because doing the inquiry right now is ill-timed and would be misinterpreted as a mere revenge against the SC. The noble intention of good governance will be overtaken by the bad timing of the investigation,” Romualdez pointed out in an interview.

Romualdez was referring to the plan of Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., who chairs the House Committee on Justice, to investigate the JDF when Congress resumes sessions Monday next week.

Tupas and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo “Rudy” Farinas Jr., a member of the Commission on Appointments (CA), also filed House Bill (HB) No. 4738 and HB No. 4690, respectively, to repeal, replace and reform the JDF by compelling the SC justices to open their pork barrel, stressing the constitutional grant of fiscal autonomy cannot and should not be used to frustrate the overriding constitutional principles of transparency, accountability and good governance.

Quezon City Rep. Winston “Winnie” Castelo, who chairs the House Committee on Metro Manila Development, agreed with Romualdez, explaining “the use of all public funds, including JDF should be accounted for by reason of transparency,” but he feared that justices would complain that lawmaker-allies of the Palace are trying to get back at them.

”The Judiciary Development Fund is no exception as a matter of rule for transparency. However, I caution the proponents on the timing of investigation. Congressman Martin Romualdez was right, it might be misconstrued as getting back at the SC for their adverse decision on DAP,” said Castelo, a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).

Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr., vice chairman of LP, stressed his challenge for the SC to make a voluntary public disclosure of all their transactions regarding the JDF or face congressional investigation.

”The Supreme Court should voluntarily disclose its receipts and expenditures, and not wait for any congressional inquiry,” Belmonte warned as he denied that his statement was part of a retaliatory action by administration allies against justices following their unanimous ruling outlawing the key provisions of DAP.


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