Case Digest: RE: COA opinion on the computation of the appraised value of the properties purchased by the retired Chief / associate justices of the supreme court A.M. NO. 11-7-10-SC JULY 31, 2012
ISSUE: Whether or not COA’s interference, in this case, violates the judiciary’s autonomy.
FACTS: Office of the General Counsel of the Commission on Audit (COA) found that an underpayment amounting to P221,021.50 resulted when five retired Supreme Court justices purchased from the Supreme Court the personal properties assigned to them during their incumbency in the Court. The COA attributed this underpayment to the use by the Property Division of the Supreme Court of the wrong formula in computing the appraisal value of the purchased vehicles. According to the COA, the Property Division erroneously appraised the subject motor vehicles by applying Constitutional Fiscal Autonomy Group (CFAG) Joint Resolution No. 35 and its guidelines, in compliance with the Resolution of the Court En Banc in A.M. No. 03- 12-01, when it should have applied the formula found in COA Memorandum No. 98-569-A4. Atty. Candelaria, Deputy Clerk of Court and Chief Administrative Officer, recommended that the Court advise the COA to respect the in-house computation based on the CFAG formula, noting that this was the first time that the COA questioned the authority of the Court in using CFAG Joint Resolution No. 35 and its guidelines in the appraisal and disposal of government property since these were issued in 1997. As a matter of fact, in two previous instances involving two retired Court of Appeals Associate Justices, the COA upheld the in-house appraisal of government property using the formula found in the CFAG guidelines. More importantly, the Constitution itself grants the Judiciary fiscal autonomy in the handling of its budget and resources.
RATIO DECIDENDI: The COA’s authority to conduct post-audit examinations on constitutional bodies granted fiscal autonomy is provided under Section 2(1), Article IX-D of the 1987 Constitution. This authority, however, must be read not only in light of the Court’s fiscal autonomy, but also in relation with the constitutional provisions on judicial independence and the existing jurisprudence and Court rulings on these matters. Any kind of interference on how these retirement privileges and benefits are exercised and availed of, not only violates the fiscal autonomy and independence of the Judiciary, but also encroaches upon the constitutional duty and privilege of the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court En Banc to manage the Judiciary’s own affairs.