The second and last installment of our latest report looks at the disbursement, accounting and use of taxpayers’ money by the judiciary, the branch of government vested with a mandate to administer justice and uphold the rule of law.

You might ask: Is justice well worth the P12.6 billion in new appropriations for the judiciary this year, apart from a few billions more from court fees collections, and grants and loans from multilateral donors?

You might ask: What is “value for money” for the courts, if they deliver only a case disposition rate of at worst 22 percent (for the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan) and at best 60 percent for the Supreme Court?

Indeed, the numbers – people, cases, funds – are a messy, maddening mix in the courts. The numbers defy all myth and romance about the majesty and dread that literature ascribes to the men and women in robes, and indications are they pose a perpetual challenge for the administrators of the country’s judicial system.

Indeed, attempts of the judiciary to keep a firm grip on its budget and fiscal processes alone has already triggered periodic delays in completing audit reports, as well as caused recurring disputes on compliance with budget circulars that should apply across the bureaucracy.

As a result, according to the Commission on Audit, the task of auditing the courts, and prying open their books, continues just as slowly as the wheels of justice grinds in the country.

In large part, this means that there is no real gauge on just how effectively the judiciary is using the monies it receives.

For now, it certainly looks like a multibillion-peso budget has not helped the courts improve performance, based on their own targets.

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