There are blurred lines on which benefits are legitimate and otherwise for Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs), former high-ranking GOCC officials said on Monday.
Former Home Development Mutual Fund (PagIBIG Fund) President Rep. Romero Quimbo of Marikina City and ex-Government Service Insurance System President Speaker Belmonte made the pronouncement in light of the P2.3 billion bonuses granted to the employees of GOCCs in 2012 that the Commission on Audit deemed unauthorized and asked GOCCs to reimburse.
Quimbo and Belmonte noted that COA cannot exercise the same scrutiny it does to other government entities to GOCCs because GOCCs need highly competent people that require competitive salaries.
“We should not be quick to judge. I appeal for sobriety here. COA needs to distinguish between those given to the rank-and-file employees and those granted to high ranking officials and board members. This is where scrutiny would take place,” Quimbo, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, argued.
“It seems that COA is closing down all kinds of benefits schemes to GOCCs. The GOCCs need to be run by competent, technical people. The bonus should not be automatic. If these GOCCs are making money, they [GOCC’s manpower] should be well compensated,” Quimbo added.
The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. topped the COA’s list of GOCCs which granted unauthorized stipends with P1.65 billion, followed by the Development Bank of the Philippines with P216 million, Region 7 Water Districts with P186 million, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office with P54 million, Phillippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) with P48 million, Pag-IBIG Fund with P37 million, among others.
“I cannot say that we need to prevent such at this point, because there would be an assumption that it is illegal,” Quimbo, who served as Pag-IBIG President during the Arroyo administration, added.
Belmonte, who led the GSIS back in 1986, agreed with Quimbo.
The Speaker noted that while workers are entitled to bonuses, there are no existing guidelines on how much worth of bonus is deemed excessive or lawful.
“At this stage, there are no clear indications as to what is reasonable, allowable bonus. Who gets to determine all of this…what should be the rates? When COA said it was unauthorized, what was its basis for that? And if it’s the GOCC which granted bonuses, again, what was the basis for doing that?,” Belmonte, a lawyer, said in a separate talk.
Belmonte then revealed that as the GSIS President, he received a check worth millions as Christmas bonus but he decided to transfer it to GSIS funds.
“We can’t reply on the action of the individual all the time. It should be legitimate, based on good intention and assessment of performance…so guidelines should be in place,” Belmonte added. LLANESCA T. PANTI