Palace defends SC budget cuts

MANILA — Malacanang defended on Saturday the Aquino administration’s decision to cut 30% from the funding requests that the Supreme Court submitted to the Department of Budget and Management, a move that lawyers described as “budgetary blackmail” of the high court.

“From what we see, at least under this administration, the support for our colleagues in the judiciary is continuing,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in Filipino during her regular interview on government-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan on Saturday.

“Wala rin sila ni-request na pondo for the e-courts for 2014 and 2015 [They also did not request funds for the e-courts for 2014 and 2015],” Valte said, disputing the assertion of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday.

Sereno said the judiciary’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 is P20.28 billion, 5% higher than the previous year but 30% less than what the SC asked for.

“I am not content with what they gave us,” the Chief Justice said. “The national budget is terribly imbalanced against us. We don’t have the balance of power in our favor.”

But Valte said the government did support the Supreme Court by funding its  Enterprise Information Systems Plan.

“We have data to show that we supported the Supreme Court in their request to implement their information technology or the Enterprise Information Systems Plan,” she said.

The EISP is a five-year program, to be implemented from 2010 to 2015, with a total project cost of P774.6 million, Valte said.

“’This is what the administration supported and we gave them the funding they requested,” she added.

But Sereno, who rarely grants media interviews, called a press conference on Thursday to express her dismay at the budget the Palace submitted to the House of Representatives and appeal for more funds to be able to implement “game-changing” reforms in the judiciary.

“This is something that will be quite revolutionary for everyone, and I hope that this will impress on people the fact that to bring this about requires a lot of resource contribution not only from the judges and the participants themselves, but the national government,” Sereno said.