(Supreme Court of the Philippines}

(Supreme Court of the Philippines}

MANILA (Mabuhay) – A special audit of the controversial Judicial Development Fund is no longer needed.

This was the pronouncement made by Commission on Audit chair Grace Pulido Tan in a letter she sent to House justice committee chair and Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas, who had requested last July 14 for a special audit of the billion-peso annual judiciary fund.

Tan informed Tupas that audit of the JDF has been included in the regular audit of the transactions of the Supreme Court. She added that the results of such an audit are incorporated in the Annual Audit Reports (AAR) of the high tribunal.

She also told the lawmaker that copies of

the SC Audit Reports from 2000 to 2011 have already been given to the House of Representatives last March 3, while the 2012 report was “being furnished your office today.”

“Moreover, these reports are, as a matter of practice, furnished the House of Representatives as soon as they are transmitted to the Supreme Court. They are also posted on our website,” Tan added.

Meanwhile, audit of JDF transactions for the year ending December 31, 2013 is “currently being undertaken,” she said.

“The corresponding AAR for CY 2013 shall again be publicly available on the website and copies of which shall be distributed to the oversight bodies soon after they are transmitted to the Management of the Supreme Court,” she added.

Tan closed her letter by saying: “Premises considered, it may not be necessary to conduct a special audit of the JDF.”

The SC has insisted that the JDF, sourced from legal fees collected by the courts every year, is not discretionary and used only for cost of living allowances of court employees every month (80 percent) and for office equipment and facilities of the judiciary (not more than 20 percent).

The House justice committee on Tuesday began its probe on the alleged misuse of the JDF, in light of two House bills seeking to repeal Presidential Decree No. 1949, which created the JDF, and reform the way judiciary funds is being spent.

Despite an invitation from the House committee to attend the probe, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes refused to attend Tuesday’s scheduled hearing, saying she has to consult first the high court en banc. She also described the inquiry as being “premature and inappropriate.”

Her absence, however, did not sit well with the lawmakers. who said that such action showed that the Chief Justice and the other SC officials were not giving Congress the due courtesy it deserves. (MNS)