Supreme Court justice, DENR chief, Drilon’s brother told to return P5MBy Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Supreme Court has ordered one of its own justices, a brother of Senator Franklin Drilon and other former ex-officio members of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) to return some P5.5 million in allowances they received in 2006 which the Commission on Audit (COA) declared as illegal.
In a 13-page resolution, the high court threw out the petition filed by Peza seeking a reconsideration of the COA’s Sept. 17, 2009, order which ruled that the per diem allowances that the former Peza board members got for attending their meeting was a violation of the Constitution.
In sustaining the COA’s decision, the court dismissed the argument of Peza Director General Lilia de Lima that the allowances were given to its former officials “in good faith.”
Citing its ruling in a similar case, the tribunal held that Republic Act No. 8748, which amended RA 7916, or the Special Economic Zone Act of 1995, was enacted by Congress to “cure such defect” of the earlier law which authorized Peza board members to receive per diem allowances.
“The court find the petition devoid of merit … Neither can this court give credence to Peza’s claim of good faith,” read a portion of the petition.
It said the principle of good faith “is ordinarily used to describe that state of mind denoting honesty of intention and freedom from knowledge of circumstances.”
“Definitely, Peza cannot claim that it was not aware of circumstances pointing to the possible illegality of the disbursements of per diems to the ex-officio members of the board,” the court ruled.
It said Section 13, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution stated that “a public official holding an ex-officio position as provided by law has no right to receive additional compensation for the ex-officio position.”
Associate Justice Arturo Brion, then an ex-officio Peza board member as labor secretary, was ordered to return P177,000 in 2006.
On the other hand, the court said Drilon’s brother, Cesar Drilon Jr., was not entitled to receive P811,000 from Peza while Environment Secretary Ramon Paje was directed to refund P159,000 to the government.