SC: P83-M PhilHealth execs’ benefits ‘illegal, irregular’ | Inquirer News

SC: P83-M PhilHealth execs’ benefits ‘illegal, irregular’

By: - Reporter / @santostinaINQ
/ 05:34 AM December 28, 2022


Photo from Radyo Inquirer

The Supreme Court has affirmed a Commission on Audit (COA) ruling that disallowed the granting by Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) of P83.06 million in educational assistance and birthday gift benefits to its officials and employees in 2014, calling these “illegal and irregular.”

In a 21-page decision dated Sept. 27 that was made public only recently, the high tribunal dismissed PhilHealth’s petition, which challenged COA’s ruling issued in 2018 and affirmed in 2019.It also found the payees and officers who approved or certified the grant of the benefits liable for the disbursements and said they must refund the “corresponding amounts received in error.”


Citing a recent case involving PhilHealth and COA, the high court had categorically declared that the disbursements of various PhilHealth benefits, including the educational assistance allowance and birthday gift, lacked legal basis.


No absolute discretion

The beneficiaries were officials and employees in the PhilHealth head office, as well as those in the National Capital Region and Rizal regional offices. The COA, in its ruling, called PhilHealth’s arguments devoid of merit. The state health insurer had reiterated its fiscal autonomy as a government financial institution, saying the board had fixed its own compensation system while the benefits were a product of negotiations between management and employees.

But the high court reiterated its rejection of PhilHealth’s fiscal autonomy as justification for the payment of additional allowances and benefits as it cited several other previous disallowance cases against the agency. “However, it is already settled that PhilHealth does not have absolute discretion in determining the compensation of its officials,” it said in its ruling, citing a 2016 jurisprudence.

Not exempted

“That PhilHealth’s fiscal autonomy had been purportedly confirmed by the Chief Executive and the OGCC (Office of the Government Corporate Counsel), as PhilHealth argues, cannot undermine the consistent and unequivocal court pronouncements,” it added.

The high tribunal said that “at this point, there should no longer be any question that PhilHealth is not exempted from the application of the Salary Standardization Law.”

“Its power to fix personnel compensation is limited and must necessarily yield to the state policy of ‘equal pay for equal work.’ Thus, any disbursement of allowances and other forms of employee compensation must conform with prevailing rules and regulations issued by the President of the Philippines and/or the [Department of Budget and Management],” it added. INQ



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TAGS: benefits, Philhealth, Supreme Court

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