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Gov't forms Jelac to boost tripartite relations

MANILA, Philippines - Leaders of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government on Tuesday signed the creation of the Joint Judiciary Executive Legislative Advisory and Consultative Council (Jelac) in a move which is seen to strengthen the consultation and coordination among the three branches of government in upholding the rule of law. Radio dzBB's Aileen Intia reported that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed the Memorandum of Agreement on behalf of the executive department while Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno signed on the part of the judiciary; and Senate President Manuel Villar and House Speaker Prospero Nograles representing the the legislative branch. Also present during the signing were Vice President Noli de Castro, Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan and House Majority Floor Leader Arthur Defensor. In a statement, Pangilinan said the signing of the MOA will strengthen the judiciary and push for its modernization through greater budgetary support. Jelac was the brainchild of Pangilinan, as first proposed during the Summit on Extra-judicial Killings and Involuntary Disappearances in July 2007. The senator said it is the only government entity that provides for the participation and interaction of the 3 highest officials of the 3 branches of government. "If we think about it, the three co-equal branches of government are not so equal at all as the Judiciary depends on the Legislative and the Executive for the approval of its budget allocation and the appointment of justices, judges and other officials of the Judicial branch are subject to Malacanang's consent," Pangilinan said. The Senator said Jelac will be a logical forum for the Judiciary to air its needs and requirements, thereby allowing the Executive and Legislative see the broader picture. Pangilinan is also pushing to raise the judiciary's share in the budget pie, because "as a co-equal branch, it definitely deserves more than 0.8 percent of the entire national budget." He noted that at P8.4 billion, the 2008 budget of the entire Judiciary is just about the same as the budget of the Department of Justice (DoJ). "The Jelac will explore the necessary budgetary support for filling the vacancy in our courts, the creation of more courts, and the promotion of a strategic response to strengthening the rule of law," Pangilinan said. - Amita Legaspi, GMANews.TV