THE Commission on Audit (COA) is being asked to differentiate between the low-paid rank and file employees and executives of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) in ordering the return
of benefits to the agency.
The COA earlier disallowed the benefits granted to employees and directors of the PhilHealth and 30 other government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs), amounting to P2.313 billion.
The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, in an emailed statement said, the COA must make an effort to differentiate in handling the executives’ perks and an ordinary clerk’s benefits in its refund order.
In COA’s 2012 Annual Report on GOCCs, the audit officials said that these releases were “without or in excess of legal basis or proper authority” The COA said the PhilHealth Board of Directors committed “grave abuse of authority.”
“As we applaud the COA for being true to its anti-corruption mandate and standing by its earlier decision to return the illegally released funds, the agency must make a distinction between the abusive Board of Directors which gratified itself with members’ funds and the regular rank and file employees which according to law has the right to benefits and may negotiate for more under a Collective Negotiation Agreement [CAN],” said Gie Relova BMP.
“If the COA decision is followed to the letter, the average state worker shall be left with nothing because they simply live off [on]their salaries in exchange for their labor whereas, the executives can continue living their extravagant lifestyles even if they enforce the COA order,” Relova added.
The labor leader said that “most of the Board of Directors of PhilHealth are Cabinet members or heads of other agencies and steadfast allies of President Noynoy Aquino. No wonder the Palace has been defending their self-rewarded bonuses since October last year.”
“If one digs deeper, they all belong to propertied and landed families with a wide range of corporate interests and landholdings. By far, the board members of PhilHealth are born with a silver spoon unlike the rank and file employees,” he alleged.
Among the PhilHealth’s present Board of Directors include: Manuel Roxas 2nd (DILG), Rosalinda Baldoz (DOLE), Dinky Soliman (DSWD), Enrique Ona (DoH), Emilio de Quiros (SSS), Roberto Vergara (GSIS) and former chief peace negotiator Alex Padilla at its Chief Executive Officer.
Despite withholding their names, Relova also slammed several GOCC executives for hiding behind the employees and their legitimate CNAs to excuse themselves from the snowballing public outrage.
“These execs must be ashamed of themselves for using the employees’ CNA to justify their caprices when the decision to issue bonuses solely relies on them. Bureaucratic abuse can only emanate from them, not the employees. The special privileges and powers the directors are wielding is the most convincing difference between the bosses that issue directives and the employees that are the receiving end of their members’ gripes,” Relova explained.
The group also asked justice department to immediately file appropriate criminal and administrative charges against the abusive GOCC execs based on the documents and findings the COA has already released in its annual report. “The COA report is based on the GOCCs’ own reports and documents, it will be sufficient enough to establish a sturdy case based on the prima facie evidence on the repetitive illegal activities of their respective board of directors.”
Republic Act 3091 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act prohibits government officials from “becoming interested directly and indirectly, for personal gain, or having a material interest in any transaction or act requiring the approval of a board, panel or group of which he is a member.”
The law further states that, “Interest for personal gain shall be presumed against those public officers responsible for the approval of manifestly unlawful, inequitable, or irregular transaction or acts by the board, panel or group to which they belong.”
ΩPenalties include imprisonment for not less than six years and one month or more than fifteen years, perpetual disqualification from public office, and confiscation or forfeiture in favor of the Government of any prohibited interest and unexplained wealth manifestly out of proportion to his salary and other lawful income.
BMP wants the DoJ to investigate the possible collusion of the board members of the GOCCs with some officials of the Departments of Finance, Budget and leaders of the employees union in defrauding the government of billions of pesos. “A lifestyle check is most appropriate now, more than ever,” Relova held.
“The sheer number of GOCCs and number of years these illegal activities have been practiced illustrates the extent and depth of “legalized” plunder by government officials. Such wide scope and periodical occurrence of illegal releases could only be probable if there are insiders in the finance and budget departments,” he further said.
Relova also recommended to the union officials in the thirty-one GOCCs to immediately hold general membership meetings in their respective unions and explain the events surrounding the negotiations with their administrators and not muddle the issue further.
They must be come clean and spill the beans for they are accountable to their dues-paying members and the Filipino public in general as state employees, he advised.