A veteran lawmaker has called on for the transparency in all three branches, including the judiciary, in order to maintain the economic gains reaped through the current administration.
Valenzuela City Congressman Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian made the remark amid moves in the House of Representatives to look into the Judiciary Development Fund or JDF, which congressmen call as the pork barrel of the Supreme Court.
“The campaign for transparency and good governance should not only be pushed in the Executive and the Legislative. It should also be the same for the Judiciary,” Gatchalian said.
Administered by the High Court, JDF is not subject to auditing by the Commission on Audit.
Gatchalian said a congressional inquiry on the JDF could be averted if the Supreme Court takes the initiative in making a public accounting of the JDF, from the sources of the fund to the items paid for from the fund.
“Transparency in government does not exempt the Judiciary, which is among the three branches of government. The public will definitely appreciate if the magistrates of the High Court will lead by example when it comes to transparency,” he insisted.
The former Valenzuela City mayor also expressed surprise why the Supreme Court reportedly rejected the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)’s six-month-old request for copies of the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) of the justices of the high court.
News reports quoted BIR Commissioner Kim Henares as saying that the magistrates were “creating an exception for themselves”, which the Supreme Court denied SC Public Information Office head Theodore Te said civil society members and the media are able to obtain copies of the SALNs in question, noting that the BIR’s request should be “contextualized” as the petition is linked to a certain “Ma’am Arlene”.
“Since the Executive and the Legislative have been transparent in giving out the SALNs of cabinet secretaries, senators and congressmen, it is but proper that justices and judges also make their SALNs available to the public,” Gatchalian said.
The veteran solon maintained that intensified efforts to curb corruption will help boost the country’s image to its own people and to foreign investors, and in turn help the Philippines in achieving its economic potential.
“The government as a whole needs to be united and to step up its campaign against corruption, which continues to steal the fruits of the nation’s hard work towards growth. This is crucial considering the country’s economic momentum. Only when the government is transparent and united can it lift its own people from poverty,” Gatchalian said.
The current administration’s economic reforms built on the foundation of “tuwid na daan” or “straight path” gained praise from international institutions like the World Bank, which considers the Philippines as the next Asian miracle.
The World Economic Forum also took notice of the government’s anti-corruption drive in its latest competitiveness report, saying “corruption had historically been one of the country’s biggest drags on competitiveness.” (Monica Cantilero)