Kiko wants 20% budgetary increase in Judiciary

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — A TOP official yesterday recommended a 20-percent increase in the Judiciary’s budget for 2009—the highest in its history—following the creation of a council to boost cooperation among the three branches of government.

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan, a member of the Judicial and Bar Council, presented the proposal following the signing of a deal creating the Judicial, Executive and Legislative Consultative Council.

President Arroyo, Chief Justice Reynato Puno, Senate President Manuel Villar, and Speaker Prospero Nograles signed the deal in Malacañang, where the President said the council would strengthen cooperation and consultation among the three co-equal branches.

“[The council] has agreed in principle to work on a 20-percent increase in the Judiciary’s budget next year,” Pangilinan said.

“This is unprecedented. If achieved, it would allocate 1 percent of the national budget for the Judiciary, the highest allocation in [its] history. Furthermore, this would greatly help modernize [it] and strengthen the rule of law.”

Pangilinan first proposed the council at the national summit on extra-judicial killings and involuntary disappearances in July 2007. It is now the only government entity providing for the participation and interaction of the highest officials of the three government branches.

Pangilinan said a subcommittee would be created to recommend additional compensation packages for government lawyers.

Mrs. Arroyo said the three branches of government were independent entities, but that did not mean they should isolate themselves from one another.

“Rather, there should be consultation and cooperation to advance share priorities in the national interest and the welfare of all Filipinos,” she said.

Puno said the Supreme Court agreed to be a member of the council after he was satisfied it would operate within the doctrines of separation of powers and checks and balances.

Villar said he agreed on the need for cooperation, but that did not mean the Senate would surrender its power to investigate in aid of legislation.