PhilHealth to bring perks issue to SC
MANILA, Philippines – Let the Supreme Court decide.
This is what the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) said in a statement released Saturday, January 18, as it defended the bonuses of its offices and employees anew against allegations of the Commission on Audit (COA).
“Our differences with COA is in the interpretation of the law which should be rightfully settled by the Supreme Court at the appropriate time,” the state corporation said.
It defended the benefits, allowances, and incentives of 5,800 officers and employees as being strictly within the bounds of the PhilHealth law, the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, and various Collective Negotiation Agreements (CNAs). The corporation said these bonuses also have Presidential approval that goes all the way back to 2007.
COA recently ordered GOCCs, including PhilHealth, to return P2.3 billion in unlawful bonuses they paid to their executives in 2012. (READ: COA: PhilHealth perks illegal, unreasonable)
On Thursday evening, January 16, the agency also issued a decision junking the appeal filed by PhilHealth in 2010, seeking to reverse the notices of disallowance issued by COA for its 2003-2004 payments.
PhilHealth called it unfortunate that the issue is being raised again by COA after it already explained its case last November 2013 in a formal response to the audit agency, adding that the corporation is being “unfairly misjudged” despite its successes, namely:
- the phenomenal and unprecendented increases in health benefit payments
- better collection efficiency
- excellent provider participation
- outstanding investment yields
- high customer satisfaction rates
Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) chairman Cesar Villanueva said COA could demand that the GOCCs pay the money back if they are found to have no legal basis for releasing bonuses.
He also reiterated President Benigno Aquino III's Executive Order No. 7 which put a moratorium on increasing compensation, bonuses, and allowances for government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs).
The GCG, as an oversight and policymaking body in charge of GOCCs, was created in October 2011 to provide a benchmark for the pay of GOCC officials and employees so as to avoid irregularities.
But PhilHealth asserted it has been authorized “to organize its office, fix the compensation of and appoint personnel as may be deemed necessary and upon the recommendation of the President of the Corporation,” citing Section 16 of the amended National Health Insurance Act of 1995 – the law that created PhilHealth.
“The truth is that the compensation of our PhilHealth workers has not been increased for the past 3 years and PhilHealth has already been providing said benefits for the past 6 years,” the statement read, adding it has since been compliant with directives of the GCG.
At a Palace briefing on Friday, January 17, Villanueva explained the principle behind PhilHealth's position.
"And in other words, once it has been granted and there’s every legal indication that it has been granted legally, which is the position of PhilHealth because there’s an [Office of the President's] approval that they had [during the time of Arroyo]. They don’t want to undermine that principle, the doctrine is... the rank-and-file will rebel because that is already there. They’ve been enjoying it for more than 6 years, right?" (READ: Unauthorized GOCC bonuses? Blame Arroyo)
Villanueva said Aquino's approval of a benchmark for the pay scale of all GOCC personnel had been sidelined due to the calamities the country experienced during the second half of 2013.
“One of our major mandates is to remedy that so that there is uniformity within the GOCC sector. That mandate appears in the approval by the President of a compensation and position classification system (CPCS) that will cover all GOCCs,” he said.
“Once the CPCS comes into play, it has been vetted properly; it has been compared with NGO [non-governmental organizations] salaries; it has been compared with private sector salary. And this will now bind all of the GOCCs.”
PhilHealth, for its part, said the "lawful" bonuses were given to properly compensate its workforce.
“We continue to assure the public that the premium contributions are protected and being wisely spent on health benefit payments.“ (READ: PhilHealth says P1.48-B bonuses questioned by COA legal) – Jee Geronimo/Rappler.com