MAINTAINING a five-person regulatory body of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is getting more expensive. In 2009, the government spent only a total of P7,951,956 as compensation for Chairperson Fe Barin and four commissioners. The amount soared by 351.788 percent to P35,925,954 in 2015.
So big a pay increase in only six years! Guess who were the beneficiaries of the government’s generosity? It was none other than the members of the SEC’s five-person regulatory body.
A compensation report prepared every year by the Commission on Audit identified the beneficiaries of the SEC’s generosity in 2015 as follows: SEC Chairperson Teresita Herbosa and Commissioners Ephyro Luis Barios Amatong, Manuel Huberto Badilla Gaite, Antonieta Fortuna Ibe and Blas James Gregorio Viterbo. Their gross compensation of P35,925,954 in 2015 was 4.518 times that of Barin and company in 2009.
Despite less work, the SEC’s five-person commission was rewarded with such huge compensation by the previous temporary occupant of Malacañang. This is generosity, or even charity, at the expense of taxpayers. Remember, the SEC has already been reduced to a depository of company files.
In the previous Due Diligencer, I wrote about the transfer of 14 of the SEC’s functions to regular courts in 2001. This took the burden off the shoulders of the SEC’s five commissioners including the chairman, who used to review cases decided by the commission’s hearing officers. Yet today, with less work but bigger pay, they can enjoy more free time to tour the world, if they want to even at government expense by making their journey official.
Are the members of the commission taking advantage of their easy life as SEC’s top officials?
It seems they do. If you go by the legal opinion issued from time to time by the SEC, you will find it signed only by the majority, meaning, by only three members of the SEC’s five-person regulatory body. Rarely do the five commissioners sign an official document such as the suspension order prohibiting businessman Roberto Ongpin from heading a listed company.
Despite less work, however, Herbosa is among the government’s highest-paid officials. She was No. 3 in 2015, topped only by BSP Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr. at No. 1 with compensation of P13,967,395, and Roberto Vergara of the Government Service Insurance System, who was paid P13,449,294.
Huge compensation gap
Going by COA’s compensation data, Herbosa received a total of P9,801,270 in 2015. This means that in six years, the compensation of the SEC chief surged 267.857 percent to P9,801,270 in 2015 from only P2,664,425 which Chairperson Fe Barin got in 2009.
If her total compensation in 2015 made Herbosa very lucky, her basic pay of P7,174,824, which was equivalent to 73.203 percent of P9,801,270, should have made her even happier. It dwarfed Barin’s P1,774,140 by P5,400,684 or 304.411 percent.
The COA report showed that even in additional incentives, Herbosa received almost three times —2.95 times to be exact—what Barin got: P2,626,446 against her predecessor’s P890,285.
What an irony, if not a paradox, that Herbosa has been paid so much despite the drastic reduction in the SEC’s judicial powers. Congress has effected a major change in passing the Securities Regulation Code transferring SEC’s judicial functions to regular courts starting in June 2001.
P213 per minute
As for the four SEC commissioners, they were also as lucky, if not luckier, than Herbosa in 2015, having been paid P6,531,171 each. Multiplied by four, the compensation for all four commissioners totaled P26,124,684. Of the total compensation per commissioner, P4,783,212 was basic salary and the rest, P1,714,959 were various incentives.
Here is another way of making the taxpayers better appreciate COA’s compensation numbers. Herbosa’s total compensation of P9,801,270 for 12 months in 2015, translates to P816,772.50 a month; P32,670.90 a day; P4,084 an hour; and P68.064 per minute.
Sorry to disappoint the readers of The Manila Times for cutting short my computations at per minute compensation so as not to disappoint with boring but insulting numbers the rank-and-file public servants, who are the least compensated government workers. I hope COA will also do a similar audit of the pay gap between them and their bosses. Its audit must not be confined to the SEC but must include all government agencies such as the offices of the President, the senators, district representatives and party-list members of the House of Representatives.