COA orders PhilHealth-Calabarzon officials to return P37 million in benefits

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 11 2019 04:00 PM

MANILA - The Commission on Audit has denied the petition for review filed by Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) in Calabarzon on the disallowance of various benefits received by employees and officials from 2012 to 2013 amounting to P37.495 million.

In a decision signed by COA chairperson Michael Aguinaldo and Commissioners Jose Fabia and Roland Pondoc on Nov. 22, all PhilHealth officials who approved the payments of benefits, as well as each employee who received them “are jointly and severally obligated to refund the amount so received.”

Among the officials who were determined to be liable under the notices of disallowance are Regional Vice President Alberto Manduriao, Fiscal Controller IV Feliciana Pastorfide, Division Cheif Miguel Macalinao, Administrative Officer Benjie Cuvinar and Fiscal Controller Erlinda Pronton.

The commission stated that according to the Administrative Code of 1987, every official or employee authorizing or taking part in illegal expenditures shall be liable to the government for the full amount paid or received.

“The obligation to refund the payment received falls upon both those directly responsible, i.e. the approving officers and those who actually received the disallowed benefit,” the COA said.

The benefits include rice allowance, shuttle services allowance, productivity and performance incentive bonus, birthday gifts, medical and mission critical allowance, special representation allowance, transportation allowance, sustenance gift, and contractors’ gift.

The benefits were granted either through a Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) between management and employees as well as through PhilHealth Board Resolutions and office orders.

Various appeals at the cluster division level had been denied which prompted PhilHealth to elevate the matter to the COA proper in 2015.

It was noted in the COA proper decision that the benefits through CNA encompassed an increase of emoluments not presently provided by law.

The COA also said that the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989 or the Salary Standardization Law states that all allowances and fringe benefits granted on top of basic salary were integrated into standardized salary rates.

The power of the Board of Directors to fix the compensation of personnel is also not all-encompassing according to COA.

The assertion of PhilHealth officials and employees that the benefits were received in good faith is also not a valid defense to avoid liability.

“To claim good faith, the employees should not have any iota of knowledge that the subject benefits were irregular. Such is not the case in this petition,” the COA said.