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Blinders’ keepers

Sometimes a follow-up article becomes necessary because of reactions and more questions arising from the previous ones like my article last Friday. As expected, the e-mailed questions centered on the deleted portion of last Friday’s article regarding the validity of withholding payment of the COLA, AA and other forms of allowances being enjoyed by incumbent government employees when the salary standardization law became effective on July 1, 1989. Some GOCCs insist that these allowances are already included in the standardized salary and therefore should not be paid anymore after that date. They adamantly argue that the various Supreme Court rulings requiring continued payment of allowances do not refer to the COLA, AA etc. Likewise, the DBM circular (CCC 10), disauthorizing further payment of said allowances, which is flawed for lack of publication,has already been published on March 1,1999.So they strongly contend that the defect has been cured.

The Supreme Court however,in the case of PITC vs, COA (G.R. 132593, June 25,1999) already ruled on the effect of the publication of the circular. The SC said that such publication did not cure the defect as to make the circular retroactive to the time the abovementioned allowances were disallowed in audit. So the GOCC employees are still entitled to avail of these benefits from the time they were withheld or disallowed.

Besides, the DBM CCC 10 proviso, reiterated in the DBM Budget Circular 2001-03 dated November 12, 2001, declaring the COLA, AA and other allowances as already integrated in the standardized salary, and disallowing their further payment, is defective and unenforceable not only because of lack of publication but also because it is null and void for being contrary to the legislative intent of RA 6758.

In NTA vs. COA (G.R. 119385, Aug. 5,1999), the Supreme Court explicitly declared that only those allowances which are usually granted to officials and employees of the government to defray or reimburse the expenses incurred in the performance of their official functions shall be deemed integrated into the standardized salaries and shall not be paid anymore after RA 6758 . Payment of other allowances in the form of financial assistance, compensation or fringe benefits which do not require reimbursement, whether in cash or in kind, given to incumbent employees as of July 1,1989 shall continue to be authorized in addition to their standardized salaries.This is "gleanable" from the wordings of the second sentence of Section 12 RA 6758 setting forth the legislative intent not to diminish the pay and other benefits of incumbent employees as of July 1, 1989, Disallowing any such benefits, ( including the COLA, AA and other financial assistance which are undeniably in the nature of non-reimburseable expenses) is "against the spirit of the Statute and is inconsistent with the principle of equity which regards the spirit and not the letter of the law", ruled the SC.

The GOCCs concerned should therefore start shedding off their blinders.They have already caused a lot of hardships on their employees whose only visible means to tide them over during hard times are the financial assistance which is so meager compared to the perks and privileges of their top brass.

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E-mail: josesison@edsamail.com.ph

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