MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered ex-officio members of the Board of Directors of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) to refund the allowances they received from the government in 2006 which were found to have been illegally disbursed.
In a resolution dated July 3, 2012 penned by Associate Justice Martin Villarama, Jr. but released to the media on Tuesday, the high court dismissed the appeal filed by PEZA that sought a reversal of the 2009 ruling of the Commission on Audit (COA) disallowing P5.45 million worth of per diem allowance of the PEZA Board.
The COA, in its September 2009 decision ordered the PEZA ex officio Board members to refund P5,451,500 worth of per diem allowance they received in 2006.
PEZA ex officio Board members include Undersecretaries of the Department of Finance, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Science and Technology and Department of Energy.
On Sept. 13, 2007, then PEZA Auditor Corazon Espano issued 2 Notices of Disallowance on the per diems of the following ex-officio members:
- Eduardo Soliman, Jr.
- Juanita Amatong
- Anselmo Avenido
- Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz
- Benedicto Ernesto Bitonio, Jr.
- Manuel Bonoan
- Arturo Brion
- Armando De Castro
- Fortunato Dela Pena
- Roseller Dela Pena
- Cyril Del Callar
- Renato De Rueda
- Cesar Drilon, Jr.
- Josephus Jimenez
- Rufino Lirag, Jr.
- Gaudencio Mendoza, Jr.
- Rolando Metin
- Edmundo Vir
- Melinda Ocampo
- Luzminda Padilla
- Ramon Paje
Espano pointed out that the per diem allowances to ex-officio members were "in violation of the Constitution" in spite of PEZA's position that the ex-officio members should retain the allowances since it was already received "in good faith."
"The lack of legal basis to grant per diems to ex-officio members of the PEZA Board, including their representatives, has already been settled by no less than the Court en banc... The constitutional prohibition explained in Civil Liberties Union case still stands and this Court finds no reason to revisit the doctrine laid down therein as said interpretation, to this Court's mind, is in consonance with what our Constitution provides," the resolution read.
"Definitely, PEZA cannot claim that it was not aware of circumstances pointing to the possible illegality of the disbursements of per diems to the ex-officio members of the Board," the resolution read.
Justice Brion took no part in the deliberations and voting.