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Starweek Magazine

Dividends

SINGKIT - Notes from the editor - The Philippine Star

The brown envelopes and manila folders looked harmless enough, as if the barong-clad men carrying them were simply going to a meeting. In the x-ray machines going through security check, the contents of the envelopes must have looked like ordinary sheets of paper.

But the slips of paper were far from ordinary, and the meeting was not a routine business gathering. Fifty of those envelopes and folders contained checks, in amounts ranging from P500,000 to P6.2 billion.

The occasion was the annual turnover of dividends of government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs) to the national treasury, the third such turnover since Republic Act 10149, or the GOCC Governance Act of 2011, was enacted three years ago this month.

The grand total, representing dividends from 2013, came up to P32.31 billion – which I guess explained the broad smiles on the faces of National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon (whose staff were very alert on the side of the stage to quickly take possession of the checks and issue receipts), Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima (who, of course, has an additional reason to smile, with last weekend’s christening of little Gabriel Cesar Fidel) and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad (who was still smiling despite all the brickbats being thrown at him and his family). The three were seen scrutinizing each check as it was passed on to them by the President and Vice President, who received the checks from the chiefs and officers of the GOCCs, called up on stage one by one to turn over their bounty.

The dividends represent at least half of the net profits for the year of the GOCCs, which are required by law to remit such monies to the government. We learned that some of the checks were actually blank, as their turnover was merely symbolic since the agency had earlier already remitted their dividends.

The President had reason to crow that dividends from GOCCs had ballooned to P95.38 billion since 2011 or about three-plus years since reforms were instituted. Over the previous eight years (2002 to 2010) GOCC dividends paid to the national government amounted to only P81.54 billion; I wonder how much in “dividends” went to private pockets.

Sitting on the board of a GOCC used to be a really cushy job – not even a job, really, just a position – with great perks and even greater pay, nevermind if the GOCC was losing money like crazy. Those days are no more, as a friend jestingly lamented, because these days board members are expected to do real work, and there is even a system of measuring performance to justify continued appointment to the board. The Governance Commission for GOCCs, created by RA 10149, keeps a close watch over the hundred or so – probably less now – GOCCs, that number down from the 158 when the GCG started, and expected to go down even more as other non-performing companies will be deactivated.

 

BUDGET SECRETARY FLORENCIO ABAD

DIVIDENDS

FINANCE SECRETARY CESAR PURISIMA

GABRIEL CESAR FIDEL

GOCCS

GOVERNANCE ACT

GOVERNANCE COMMISSION

NATIONAL TREASURER ROSALIA

PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT

REPUBLIC ACT

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