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Excessive allowances

"Do government lawyers want to serve the people or get rich?"

 

 

Santa Banana, the number of COVID-19 cases has breached the 100,000 mark, and President Duterte had no choice but to grant the request of exhausted medical frontliners for a “timeout”—a Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) for Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal from August 4 to 18.

Some sectors, especially health experts, had proposed to the President a much stricter Enhanced Community Quarantine to stop the surge. The problem there would be the hunger of millions who have lost, and who stand to lose, their jobs.

My gulay, it’s actually a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea—a choice that affects not only national interest, but even national security!

So now that we are on MECQ for two weeks, will we be able to stem the surge of the virus until we have a vaccine? Santa Banana, the country is already in recession! It looks as if our chastisement by God is getting to be much more than we can bear.

My wife and I would not mind a return to ECQ so much. We have not been going out at all anyway, owing to our age. Then again, a return to ECQ could also mean hunger for millions of Filipinos.

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The Senate should look into the issue of excessive allowances that government lawyers are getting.

Santa Banana, would you believe that in the past years since President Duterte came to power, Solicitor General Jose Calida has already received P27.9 million in allowance despite the fact that the Commission on Audit has been flagging him for excessive allowances?

Calida’s office, however, has been steadfast that a COA administrative circular cannot prevail over Republic Act No. 9417, which specifically says that 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.”

In other words, while COA as an agency of government is mandated to avoid excessive allowances to stem graft and corruption, there is conflict of laws: the COA circular on the one hand, and the Republic Act on the other. This is where the Senate should come in.

Similarly, an investigation by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee should also look into illegal allowances that lawyers of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel are getting from their clientele: Government- Owned and -Controlled Corporations.

In the case of the lawyers of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, per a COA circular, they cannot have allowances also in excess of the annual basic salary.

I distinctly recall when my nephew, Rudolf Philip Jurado was Government Corporate Counsel. He told me that the lawyers under him were getting excessive allowances from the GOCCs. And when Philip told his staff of the COA circular, he caused a “stir” among his lawyers that led to his ouster by the President. And then, Santa Banana, happy days returned to that office!

My gulay, the worst thing that can happen is that at times, they are given directly to government lawyers with the intention to be exempt from taxes. Santa Banana, this is corruption in any language!

If a government lawyer like SolGen or anyone from the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel makes contract review of their projects handled by them, do you really believe they would compromise themselves and be impartial? Of course not. For instance, if a lawyer of the OGCC were to be given P50,000 directly by a GOCC as allowance, and that GOCC has a lawsuit with a company, where do you think his loyalty would lie?

My gulay, this is a surefire formula for graft and corruption. Calida and his lawyers may not now be at the top of the list of highest paid government officials, but the worst thing that can happen is that they compromise themselves to the detriment of the whole government and the country.

This issue of excessive allowances has been a long-standing issue. In 2012, for instance, then Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, who became an associate justice of the Supreme Court, according to records had P247,000 allowances with a basic salary of P924,000. In 2014, Florin Hilbay got P935,000 in honoraria with a basic salary of P948,000. In 2015 allowance an honoraria amounted to P4.9 million; and in 2016, he got P4.5 million honorarium with a basic salary of P702,000 in six months.

But in the case of Calida, he got P27.9 million in allowances in the last three years. My gulay, do lawyers become public officials to get rich or render public service?

Topics: Emil Jurado , President Rodrigo Duterte , Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine , MECQ , Solicitor General Jose Calida , Commission on Audit
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