AGUSAN del Norte 2nd District Rep. Erlpe John Amante is seeking to prohibit all local governments from giving allowances and benefits to judges and prosecutors “to protect and preserve judicial independence and integrity.”
Amante said his proposal is not meant to discredit the integrity, impartiality and moral character of judges and prosecutors, particularly those receiving allowances from local governments “nor is it meant to accuse or assume that they are partial and outrageously immoral.”
He said the proposal is intended to create a mechanism that would ensure the judicial independence of judges and prosecutors, including employees.
Amante explained that under the Local Government Code, local governments are given authority to allocate from their funds additional allowances and other benefits to judges and prosecutors stationed in their areas.
“This mechanism tends to undermine the independence of the judiciary and raises some issues on morality. Judges and prosecutors, as dispenser of justice, must at all times isolate themselves from the alluring financial temptation,” he argued.
He said his House Bill 1397–the “Enhanced Judicial Independence Act of 2015” pending at the House of Representatives’ appropriations committee–prohibits all local governments from allocating funds from their annual budget, Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) and other local government funds for the allowances and benefits of judges and prosecutors.
The bill also declares unlawful and illegal for judges and prosecutors to receive additional compensation, allowance, honoraria, and bonuses from any local government except those directly paid by the Judiciary and the Department of Justice (DOJ) out of its annual budget and appropriations.
Based on Amante’s proposal, any erring judge or prosecutor faces a jail term of six months to 12 years, perpetual disqualification from public office, and would be ordered to refund all additional compensation, allowances, honoraria, and bonuses received from local governments.
Meanwhile, any local government officer who releases allowances and other benefits to judges and prosecutors could be jailed for six months to 12 years and be perpetually disqualified from public office, based on the proposed law. (pna)