THE SUPREME COURT (SC) has affirmed with modification two rulings of the Commission on Audit (CoA) that disallowed additional allowances and fringe benefits of Development Bank of the Philippines officers worth P1.63 million and P106.60 million, respectively.
In a 24-page decision on March 22 and made public on Aug. 15, the court’s en banc upheld the disallowances for being unconstitutional but cleared the DBP officers who approved the additional compensation.
“Nonetheless, while the Court affirms the CoA decision, which sustained the disallowance of additional allowances and benefits to DBP officers, we disagree that the officials who approved or certified the grant of disallowed benefits should also be held liable,” according to the ruling penned by Associate Justice Rodil V. Zalameda.
The High Court ordered the officials who received the additional allowances to return the money.
In separate resolutions, the CoA affirmed Supervising Auditor Hilconeda P. Abril’s findings that disallowed P1.63 million and P106.60 million in additional allowances, fringe benefits, and economic assistance for DBP officers.
“CoA found unacceptable DBP’s claim that the amounts disallowed were not in the concept of a fixed salary but were in the form of reimbursement of expenses for attendance of meetings and performance of duties,” the court noted.
The agency also cited the General Appropriations Act of 2005, which prohibits expenditures for allowances and other forms of compensation unless authorized by law.
DBP argued that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had previously approved its compensation plan, which rendered the CoA’s disallowances moot and academic.
The CoA pointed out that Ms. Arroyo’s approval of the grant of additional compensation was illegal, as it was made 17 days before the May 2010 polls.
The Omnibus Election Code prohibits any government official or employee from giving salary increases 45 days before a regular election.
The tribunal agreed with the CoA as it noted the Constitution also prohibits public officers or employees from receiving additional or double compensation under existing laws. — John Victor D. Ordoñez