Lawmakers want to add P7 billion to judiciary budget for 2019
MANILA, Philippines – Legislators are seeking an additional P7 billion to the proposed P37.33-billion budget of the judiciary in 2019.
This was announced on Monday, September 24 by committee on appropriations vice chairperson Raul del Mar, who was defending the judiciary’s 2019 budget at the House plenary.
Del Mar made the announcement as he was being interpellated by Baguio City Representative Mark Go, who pointed out that judiciary’s proposed budget in 2019 does not cover allocations for the operations of two new municipal trial courts (MTCs) and two new regional trial courts (RTCs) in Baguio City.
These new MTCs and RTCs in Baguio were created under Republic Act No. 10696, signed by then-president Benigno Aquino III on November 11, 2015.
“Alam niyo po, ‘yong disposition ng cases, ‘di lang siguro sa Baguio pero sa buong Pilipinas, eh medyo mababa dahil kulang ang ating mga korte doon po sa amin at sa ibang parte ng Pilipinas. So kung puwede sana, isama natin ito sa budget at kung puwede, i-implement natin as soon as possible kasi 4 na taon na po ito na bakante,” said Go.
(You know, disposition of cases, not just in Baguio but in the rest of the Philippines, is slow because there are not enough courts in our city and in other parts of the country. So I hope that we can include this in our budget and implement it as soon as possible because the vacancies have been there for 4 years now.)
Del Mar agreed, saying this is why the House will back the P7-billion additional budget the judiciary is asking for. The Cebu City 1st District representative said there would be allocations for the said Baguio courts under the additional funds.
“Thank you, your honor. We are not really asking the restoration of the entire P18 billion. What we have in mind is only P7 billion, which covers your concern, your honor,”said Del Mar.
What P18 billion is Del Mar talking about? When the 2019 budget was being prepared, the judiciary had initially wanted to propose a total budget of P55.929 billion.
But under the final version of the National Expenditure Program – the proposed 2019 budget submitted by the Department of Budget and Management to Congress – the judiciary’s budget was lowered to P37.330 billion, a difference of about P18 billion.
Technically, it is not a budget cut, because the government wants to implement a cash-based budgeting system next year. This budgeting system limits contractual obligations and disbursing payments to goods delivered and services rendered within the fiscal year.
This means implementing agencies need to complete their contracts by the end of 2019, regardless of possible delays. Projects that are "not implementation-ready" will be removed from the proposed budget.
What else will the P7 billion cover? Apart for the allocations for the Baguio courts, the proposed additional P7 billion for the judiciary’s budget next year will also include appropriations for the Court of Appeals’ (CA) capital outlay funds, including transportation for CA justices.
It was Leyte 3rd District Representative Vicente Veloso, ex-appellate court justice, who asked Del Mar on the floor if the P7-billion would also cover additional funds for the CA. Del Mar agreed.
“We definitely join the honorable Veloso on those specific requests, which already are already included in the total [additional funds] I mentioned earlier,” Del Mar told Veloso.
As for the other line items the P7 billion will be used for, Del Mar was not able to mention them during the plenary deliberations.
How will the House add funds to the judiciary's budget? To allocate additional P7 billion to the judiciary, the House will have to realign funds appropriated for other items under the proposed P3.757-trillion 2019 budget to the judiciary instead.
For now, it remains unclear where the additional P7 billion will be realigned from.
Plenary deliberations on the proposed 2019 budget continued as of posting time.
Lawmakers previously agreed to realign P51.792 billion originally allocated for the Department of Public Works and Highways' (DPWH) projects in specific regions. Legislators decided to relocate the said funds instead to other projects of the DPWH and other state agencies. – Rappler.com