Ex-OGCC head: Gov't lawyers should not receive excessive allowances

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 30 2020 09:21 PM

MANILA - Former government corporate counsel Philip Jurado said Thursday government lawyers should not aspire to get rich while in public service and be modest when receiving allowances and honoraria. 

Jurado, who was fired by President Rodrigo Duterte after giving a legal opinion on the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and a casino operation that apparently did not sit well with the latter, had refused to accept allowances during his time as head of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC).

According to him, his refusal to allow "secret allowances" from government-owned and controlled corporations prompted some OGCC lawyers to complain about his alleged abuses.

“You’re a public servant, kailangan magtiis ka. You joined the government not to get rich 'di ba, because you want to serve,” Jurado said. 

As former OGCC head, Jurado had agreed with the Commission on Audit (COA) on limiting allowances and honoraria of government lawyers to up to 50 percent of their salary.

The same COA ruling was used against current Solicitor General Jose Calida, who was flagged by the commission for supposed excessive allowances and honoraria. 

In the 2019 Report on Salaries and Allowances, Calida was at second spot with total earnings of P16.952 million.

Calida’s basic salary for the year was P2.914 million, plus personal economic relief assistance and honoraria amounting to P11.914 million, allowances of P288,500, bonuses and other benefits worth P550,618, prior year’s adjustment at P971,992, discretionary funds and extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses at P312,000. 

Calida’s total earnings for 2018 amounted to P12.469 million, while in 2017, he earned P10.917 million. 

ABS-CBN reached out to Calida's office for a statement but it has yet to respond.

Since the time of former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, state auditors were adamant in implementing Circular No. 85-25-E, dated April 25, 1985, that prohibits allowances of more than 50 percent of salaries of government officials. 

Hilbay himself cited laws that should not be superseded by the COA circular. 

Jurado said government lawyers, especially those working in OGCC, should be prudent enough to refuse excessive allowances from GOCCs that may cloud their legal opinion.

“If you will receive allowances from these GOCCs, 'yung objectivity mo, mako-compromise eh. It’s like this - I am receiving P25,000 dito sa opisinang 'to, and nagpapa-contract review. Shall I make a negative review or favorable review?" he said.

"Parang mako-compromise ka na kasi tumatanggap ka na ng allowances sa kanila eh. That is one reason why I did not receive, I refused to accept any allowances."