MANILA-- The Supreme Court dismissed the petition of the Monetary Board, the policy-making body of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, seeking to allow the extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses (EME) for its ex-officio members.
In a 10-page ruling penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam dated June 6, 2017 but obtained by the media recently, the high court upheld the notices of disallowance issued by the Commission on Audit (COA) issued in August 2010 and affirmed in August 2014 on EMEs received by MB member Peter Favila and former member Romulo Neri from 2007 to 2009.
The SC dismissed the allegations of the MB board that the COA committed grave abuse of discretion and violated their constitutional right under the equal protection clause and instead affirmed the assailed ruling of the commission that ex-officio members of the MB "shall not be entitled to additional EMEs, other than that appropriate for him or her under the GAA as a cabinet member."
"In the absence of grave abuse of discretion, the factual findings of the COA, which are undoubtedly supported by the evidence on record, must be accorded great respect and finality. COA, as a duly authorized agency to adjudicate money claims against government agencies and instrumentalities has acquired special knowledge and expertise in handling matters falling under its specialized jurisdiction," read the decision.
The petition was filed by the seven-member MB under its former chair and BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr., who retired from his posts earlier this month and was replaced by Nestor Espenilla Jr.
Apart from Espenilla and Favila, the other current members of the MB are former Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. president Valentin Araneta, former socioeconomic planning secretary Felipe Medalla, former BSP assistant governor and general counsel Juan de ZuAiga Jr., former Metrobank president Antonio Abacan Jr. and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
The SC ruling also held MB officials who approved the EMEs liable under Republic Act No. 8791 (General Banking Law), which requires "highest standards of integrity and performance."
The Court also rejected the defense of presumption of good faith by the MB members in approving the EME.
It cited General Appropriations Acts that limit the grant of EMEs, the September 1997 memorandum of COA for enforcement of Section 13, Article VII of the Constitution that prohibits double compensation in government service, and the irregularity of additional compensation to ex-officio members of bodies.
"Indeed, the petitioners-approving officers' disregard of the aforementioned case laws, COA issuances, and the Constitution cannot be deemed as a mere lapse consistent with the presumption of good faith," read the ruling.
The SC also specifically pointed to the liability of Favila, who argued that the COA ruling became final only in 2014 and should therefore not cover the EMEs he received in 2007 and 2008 when he was concurrent MB member and trade and industry secretary.
"His liability arose from his receipt of the subject allowances in 2008, when he was ex-officio member of the Board. Hence, good faith did not favor him only because he had failed to exercise the highest degree of responsibility, but also because as a cabinet member he was aware of the extent of the benefits he was entitled to," it stressed.
Favila has returned to the MB after he was appointed a member of the board by President Duterte last month.
Source: Philippine News Agency