OSG says no anomaly on excess allowances in 2016

MANILA� The Office of Solicitor General on Thursday said that there was no anomaly in the allowances given to its lawyers as it is governed by Republic Act 9417 or the OSG Charter.

The OSG commented on the latest report of the Commission on Audit (COA) on its website on May 17, the annual audit report on the OSG that Solicitor General Jose Calida and his predecessor Florin Hilbay and 15 other OSG lawyers received excess honoraria and allowances totaling Php 8,555,767.80 in 2016.

In its report, COA said Calida and Hilbay received millions of pesos in excess allowances last year with the former receiving as much as Php1.123 million in excess allowances from July to December 2016.

The COA report further stated that while government officials are allowed to receive allowances and honoraria, it must not exceed half or 50 percent of their annual salary.

A Solicitor General receives an annual salary of PHP1.8 million.

Calida through OSG spokesman Erik Dy explained that under their Charter their lawyers are authorized to receive allowances and honoraria for legal services rendered to client agencies.

This is due to the government's intention to attract the best and the brightest lawyers to work and build a career at the OSG, Dy said in a statement.

He further explained that the issue of allowances between the OSG and COA is nothing new as this happened even during previous administrations.

At the same time, he insisted that the OSG is steadfast in its position that a COA administrative circular cannot abrogate a substantive law such as the OSG Charter.

For his part, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay also said there is nothing anomalous about the matter as he echoed that the allowances are guided by RA 9417.

The allowances of all lawyers of OSG, past and present, are allowed by a very specific provision of law, Section 8, of RA 9147. The COA doesn't have the authority to countermand an act of Congress, Hilbay said in a text message when sought for comment.

That provision states that the legal staff of the Office of the Solicitor General are allowed to receive honoraria and allowances from client departments, agencies and instrumentalities of the Government.

He said that has always been the position of the OSG under every Solicitor General.

The COA can't amend a law, especially a specific provision of law that goes back to the Administrative Code of 1987 and reiterated under RA 9147, Hilbay added.

Source: Philippines News Agency