MANILA - Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno approved travel and accommodation allowances for an information technology consultant on top of the latter's P250,000 monthly salary, a High Court lawyer confirmed Wednesday.
Consultant Helen Macasaet, who was allegedly hired without public bidding, received a total of P12 million in 5 years of service for the automation of the judiciary's processes, according to an impeachment complaint against Sereno.
Macasaet's contract states that she can be reimbursed for travel and accommodation expenses, Supreme Court lawyer Michael Ocampo said during an impeachment hearing at the House of Representatives.
This, however, may have violated protocol, said Maria Regina Adoracion Filomena Ignacio, Assistant Court Administrator of the Supreme Court.
"It's a violation of the fixed contract because when you have a certificate of availability of funds (CAF), all the remuneration, reimbursable, miscellaneous costs should be added and this should be covered [by the] CAF," she explained.
"If there is an exclusionary travel and accommodation, the amount of which is not predetermined, then it can exceed the corresponding certificate of availability of funds," she added.
For her part, Macasaet said she did not ask for reimbursement for all of her out-of-pocket expenses.
Prior to her SC stint, Macasaet said she was president and CEO of a local IT company and was receiving a P3-million annual package, excluding subsidy for other expenses such as her car, gasoline and telephone bill.
"Excluding all those personal expenses which are related to performing my work, I would be getting more or less a net of P80,000," she said.
It was Macasaet's first appearance at the House committee hearing on the impeachment case against Sereno.
During the hearing, Macasaet gave lawmakers her IT background, highlighting her accomplishment in resolving the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) database crash, which she said was one of the biggest information and communications technology crises in Philippine history.
FRIEND OF SERENO'S STAFF CHIEF
Meanwhile, Ocampo also admitted that he was the one who submitted Macasaet's credentials to the Supreme Court.
He said he only met Macasaet through Sereno's head staff Ma. Lourdes Oliveros.
Oliveros eventually admitted that Macasaet is her friend.
Sereno had earlier justified that Macasaet’s fees were relatively lower compared to the cost of other ICT-related consultancies previously proposed by the court's Committee on Computerization and Library.