SC earmarks budget for salary raise, hiring, pension

MANILA, Philippines – A significant bulk of the judiciary's proposed budget for 2018 is earmarked for the hiring of new staff, salary raise for court personnel, and additional provision for the pension of retired judges and justices.

Up for plenary debate is the P34.7-billion budget for the judiciary in 2018, which is a P2-billion increase from its P32.7-billion allotment this year.

The judiciary proposed a P1.6-billion increase for the Supreme Court and Philippine Lower Courts (SCPLC) in 2018.

Of the SCPLC's P31.4 billion proposed budget, P18.8 billion is pitched to go to Personal Services (PS) which will pay for "salaries, wages and other compensation/benefits."

Salary raise

This is because the judiciary will now implement the 1st to 3rd tranche of the salary increase as provided for by Executive Order No. 201 signed in February 2016 by former president Benigno Aquino III.

Under EO 201, government personnel will now receive compensation at par with private practitioners by at least "70% of the median of the market." The EO was the government's way to keep workers from moving to the private sector. You can view the entire adjustment scheme here.

Bulk of the budget will also go to the "additional provision for pension of judges and justices," according to the presentation to the House Committee on Appropriations made by Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva. The House Committee approved the budget with no contentions.

Villanueva also said there is also budget earmarked for the "retirement gratuity benefits of compulsory retirees."

A total of P6.5 billion is also allotted for the filling of vacancies in SC and the lower courts. According to the National Expenditure Program (NEP) of 2018, there remain 12,076 unfilled positions at the SC and lower courts as of 2018.

Travel expenses

The special provisions of the NEP also include the expenses for official travel of staff of  SC.

"The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court may authorize the reimbursement of actual and reasonable expenses incurred during official travel in carrying out the supervisory functions of the Supreme Court over the lower courts," says item no. 9 of the judiciary's section of the NEP.

Incidentally, unfilled vacancies, alleged unpaid benefits to retired judges, and travel allowances given to the staff of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno are among the grounds in the impeachment case buildup against the Chief Justice. (READ: Is CJ Sereno entitled to a luxury vehicle?)

Lawmakers did not question such provisions during the budget hearing on August 7. At least two impeachment cases have been put forward by different groups, but both have yet to secure an endorsement from a member of the House. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

image