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SC math on Napocor back pay questioned

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 07:10 AM December 05, 2014
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The Supreme Court. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Why pay some 9,000 National Power Corp. (Napocor) employees P62 billion in back wages when majority of them were rehired a day and a month after they were retrenched in 2003?

Cabinet secretaries and senators on Thursday said they were perplexed by the Supreme Court decision awarding P62 billion to 9,021 Napocor drivers and mechanics who earlier received a total of P9.9-billion in separation pay.

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If the ruling becomes executory, it will have dire consequences as the amount will be passed on to electricity consumers leading to increased electricity rates and power outages, energy officials said.

Worse, the consequent garnishment of the assets of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) would lead to its cross-default of a P329-billion loan, with the government ending up paying for it, they said.

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No joke’

The Office of the Solicitor General has a pending motion asking the high tribunal to rule on the case en banc.

“This is no joke. We believe this is not a necessary expense and has no basis,” Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said at the energy committee hearing on the impact if the P62 billion will be paid out to the Napocor employees.

When the power sector was restructured in 2002 under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), some 9,021 Napocor employees were retrenched in 2003 and were paid P9.9 billion, or P1.09 million each, equivalent to one and a half month pay per year of service, Purisima explained.

According to Purisima, 7,127 of the 9,021 who were retrenched were rehired, including 3,300 that were rehired the next day and the rest a month later.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the government was reluctant to consider payment until the Commission on Audit has analyzed how the amount was arrived at.

How come?

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“How did we come to P62 billion when one-third was hired a day after? What back wages were lost in one month?” he said.

“We’re very reluctant to consider this amount until we get the COA to look closely how this came about, who were paying and how much they were paying… This is highly questionable,” Abad said.

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, who presided over the hearing as the energy committee vice chair, remarked: “It seems that the premises by which the amount was arrived at are not clear.”

In September 2006, the high court voided Napocor’s 2003 reorganization because it had been approved by alternates of the NPC board of directors.

And then in 2008, upon clarification by the NPC Drivers and Mechanics Association (NPC Dama), it ordered the Napocor and PSALM to pay the drivers and mechanics P62 billion in back wages and wage adjustments.

Last September, the high court ordered the clerk of court of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court and the lower court’s sheriffs to suspend the enforcement of its order and lift the garnishment against Napocor and PSALM.

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TAGS: NAPOCOR, National Power Corp, Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management, Psalm, Supreme Court
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