Sereno’s compensation as audited by COA

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EMETERIO SD. PEREZ

CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno had a net worth of P24.250 million (or to be exact, P24,249,941.14) as of Dec. 31, 2016, according to her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) posted on the website of the Supreme Court. This meant her net worth increased by P2.076 million, an amount equivalent to 9.365 percent of her net worth of P22.173 million in 2015.

In the same post on www.sc.judiciary.com.ph, Sereno reported that her net worth of P22.173 million in 2015 increased by P2.589 million, or 13.222 percent of her net worth of P19.584 million in 2014.

Simplified, Sereno’s net worth surged by P4.666 million to P24.250 million in 2016 from P19.584 million in 2014. Thus, the increase in her compensation in a three-year period was equivalent to 23.825 percent.

As reported on the SC’s website, Sereno’s “real properties acquisition cost” in 2014 amounted to P8.974 million and had “personal property” of P11.185 million. When added, these totaled P20.159 million.


Translated, Sereno’s total assets of P20.159 million in 2014 jumped by P4.625 million or 22.944 percent to P24.785 million in 2016, when she reported that her “real properties acquisition cost” totaled P7.952 million while she valued her “personal property” at P16.832 million.

When computed, Sereno’s personal property increased by P5.647 million, or 50.484 percent from 2014 to 2016.

COA’s audit
As an associate justice who was promoted to chief justice by then President Benigno C. Aquino 3rd, Sereno received in 2011 total compensation of P2.452 million, of which P1.003 million or 40.894 percent was her basic salary, according to the Commission on Audit.

However, the COA audit came up with P2.924 million under the “grand total” in 2011. The amount included, among other items, allowances of P312,887; “bonus, incentives & benefits” of P990,250 as associate justice, and P280,000 as PET (Presidential Electoral Tribunal) member.

In addition, Sereno was paid P100,000, which COA defined only under “others.” Like other government officials, she also received the usual PERA (Personal Equity and Retirement Account) of P24,000 a year.

COA did not explain what it means by “adcom” but attached it to PERA.

In 2012 when she was appointed by Aquino as chief justice, Sereno’s compensation totaled P2.663 million, although according to COA the total was P3.1196 million. Of the total, her basic salary increased to P1.084 million. Her other pays and perks were P24,000 for PERA; P1.2275 million as allowances; and P211,500 as bonus, incentives & benefits.

As PET chairman for 12 months, Sereno was paid P225,451 in 2012.

Other years
In 2013, the Aquino administration paid Sereno P3.365 million as chief justice. Her annual compensation consisted of P1.236 million as basic salary. Her other pays and perks were PERA, P24,000; allowance, P1,754,200; bonus, incentives & benefits, P191,000; others, P18,000; discretionary and emergency funds, P987,999.

Sereno was paid P3.622 million as her compensation in 2014. The total was divided into basic pay, P1.236 million; PERA, P24,000; allowances, P1.833 million; bonus, incentives & other benefits, P60,000; others, P44,000; and discretionary and emergency fund, P1.326 million.

In 2015, the Aquino administration rewarded Sereno with P3.820 million as her compensation, of which P1.241 million, or 32.48 percent was her basic pay. As PET chairman, she received P744,000 as PERA, divided into P24,000 as chief justice and P720,000 as PET chairman.

By 2016, the last year of the Aquino administration, Sereno’s basic pay was P1.646 million, which was equivalent to 28.972 percent of her annual compensation of P5.682 million. Aside from her basic pay, she was also paid the same amount of PERA of P744,000 which she got in 2015 as PET chairman and an associate justice.

Her other remunerations in 2016 were P2.207 million as allowances, of which P1.927 million as an associate justice and P280,000 as PET chairman. Her bonus, incentives & benefits amounted to P744,435.20 while her annual discretionary funds totaled P336,000.

In addition, she was granted what COA said was “prior year’s adjustment” of P4,500.

Due Diligencer’s take
The question is not about the ability or inability of government to pay government officials. Rather, it is all about Sereno’s votes on certain issues decided by the Supreme Court.

As an associate justice and later on as chief justice, Sereno voted against the majority rulings. In the case of the criminal cases filed against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, for instance, she dissented against the SC’s ruling on the use of funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, she wrote: “I join the dissent of J. Leonen and attach my separate dissent.”

Both Sereno and Leonen were appointees of Aquino, the son. What a coincidence!

Of course Sereno dissented from the majority ruling of the High Court; her dissent may be too long to quote here. It is enough that she was allowed to say her piece.

Non-lawyers should know that lawyers are generally expected to argue best for their clients. Whether these lawyers are influenced by outsiders is beside the point. It is enough that non-lawyers know when to believe lawyers and when not to believe them.

Do all lawyers practice what they are taught in school? We may have an answer to that, and of course, we are entitled to our own opinion. Do they sometimes allow themselves to be influenced by outsiders who may have helped advance their career? Just asking.

esdperez@gmail.com

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