MANILA, Philippines - Even if she was entitled to attorney’s fees as the then government corporate counsel, former Justice Secretary Agnes VST Devanadera said she opted to waive a big chunk for her employees.
Devanadera told abs-cbnNEWs.com that “the remaining amount of the 60% was waived by me in favor of the [Office of the Government Corporate Counsel] for the use of the office for expenses like improvement, acquisition of supplies and equipment, benefits and incentives of the lawyers and employees.”
The Office of the Ombudsman last week elevated before the Sandiganbayan a graft case against Devanadera and some of her subordinates in connection with alleged unlawful grant of allowances for herself and her staff in 2007 when she was still the government corporate counsel.
The special assessment fees stemmed from cases involving the foreclosure of delinquent real estate loan accounts of the Government Service Insurance System.
Devanadera said she received the attorney’s fees as per the Implementing Office Order 221. The order was issued in 2004, even before she became the office’s chief.
Based on the order, she is supposed to receive almost P7 million in attorney’s fees. She said she only received P500,000 while the rest was used for the improvement of the office.
“The Ombudsman found that there was a release of P500,000 to me. Ten percent was remitted to the [Bureau of Internal Revenue] as withholding tax. Do you pay income tax if the intention is to malverse the funds,” she asked.
“There is no audit finding in the attorney's fees released because releases like this are ordinary and regular disbursements in OGCC. Other lawyers even those before me were also given their share in the attorney's fees in accordance with the guidelines promulgated by my predecessors and on the basis of PD 1514 and Administrative Code of 1987; Office Order Nos 122, Series of 2002 and No 006, Series of 2004,” she stressed.
Devanadera vowed to fight the graft charges against her. She also asked why she was being singled out since the practice has been in place even before she came to office.