SC upholds COA ruling on P15.2-M unauthorized benefits given to PhilHealth employees


Posted at Feb 28 2023 08:49 PM

MANILA - The Supreme Court has upheld a Commission on Audit (COA) ruling disallowing the release of various allowances granted by PhilHealth to its regular and contractual employees, worth over P15.2 million.

In the Supreme Court en banc decision dated September 27, 2022 and penned by Justice Rodil V. Zalameda, it said those who received the benefits can no longer use good faith as their defense.

Various notices of disallowance (ND) were first received by the PhilHealth Region IV-A Regional Office for the transportation allowance, project completion incentive and education assistance allowance it gave to its regular and contractual employees back in 2009 and 2010.

The transportation allowance and project completion incentive given by PhilHealth to its contractual employees were considered irregular "since job order employees are not entitled to the benefits enjoyed by government employees," the Court also said.

The educational assistance allowance given to regular employees, on the other hand, was in violation of the 2009 and 2010 General Appropriation Acts.

"In denying PhilHealth’s petition, the Supreme Court ruled that the fiscal autonomy enjoyed by PhilHealth under its charter, Republic Act No. 7585, or the National Health Insurance Act of 1995, is not absolute and cannot be the sole basis for the grant of benefits or allowances," the court said.

The Court added that PhilHealth's power to fix salaries and allowances "is still subject to relevant guidelines and policies as may be issued by the President." 

The Court also said the recipients of the disallowed benefits should return the amounts, "regardless of whether or not they received them in good faith."

"In the present case, however, good faith cannot be appreciated in favor of the PhilHealth Board of Directors and the approving authorities because they had knowledge of the irregularity of the benefits since disallowances of the same nature had been previously issued," the Court added.

The benefits consisted of P220,736 in transportation allowance for contractual employees in 2009, P144,587 and P153,769 in project completion incentive for contractual employees in 2009 and 2010, and a total of P14.7 million in educational assistance allowance for regular employees in 2009 and 2010.

In December, the Supreme Court also ordered PhilHealth officials and employees to return P83 million in benefits they received in 2014.

- report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News