• State auditors tell PEZA to return P20-M bonus


    THE joy of civil servants getting Christmas bonus ceases if the Commission on Audit (COA) finds the Yuletide stipend didn’t get the chief executive’s go-ahead.

    The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) turned joyless—it was ordered to return more than P20 million in Christmas bonus, following a decision from top auditors that the “gifts” did not go through the president.

    In a six-page decision, COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan and Commissioners Heidi Mendoza and Rowena Guanzon ruled that the increase in the Christmas bonuses given between 2005 and 2008 were illegal.

    Records showed that during the four years, PEZA went overboard from the allowable stipend, ranging from P10,000 to P25,000 per employee.

    Total disallowance for 2005 amounted P2.7 million, P5.27 million in 2006, P5.55 million in 2007 and P6.91 million in 2008, aggregating to P20.43 million for the four years.

    In its defense, PEZA officials said that they are not covered by Presidential Decree (PD) 1597, which rationalizes compensation of public officers and employees.

    PEZA also said they are not required to follow presidential directives like Memorandum Order 20 of 2001, which exempts state companies from the Salary Standardization Law, and Administrative Order 103 of 2004, an austerity measure order.

    Before the issue reached the en banc, a COA director already stressed that PEZA’s move was illegal because it did not go through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for presidential approval.

    PEZA elevated the case before the en banc, which ruled that the petitioners’ claims were “unmeritorious.”

    In their ruling, top auditors said that PD 1597 “explicitly provides the requisite Presidential review and approval, through the [DBM].”

    They added that the two presidential directives are “administrative issuances [that]partake of the nature of a statute and have in their favor a presumption of legality,” ruled auditors, quoting Supreme Court jurisprudence.

    The en banc noted that these two directives “may not be simply dismissed as inutile.”

    The ruling underscored that DBM even scrawled “restrictions” on the footnotes of PEZA’s 2007 corporate operating budget, reminding the state company that the confirmation of their 2007 budget “should not be construed as approval of any unauthorized expenditure.”

    With this alone, the en banc junked other claims of PEZA in its defense and upheld the disallowance of the P20.43 million Christmas bonus and cash gifts to its employees.


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