Yap v. COA (G.R. No. 158562; April 23, 2010)


CASE DIGEST: RAMON R. YAP, Petitioner, v. COMMISION ON AUDIT, Respondent.

FACTS: Ramon R. Yap is holder of a regular position of Department Manager of the National Development Company (NDC), a government-owned and controlled corporation with original charter. He was appointed by the Board of Directors, Manila Gas Corporation (MGC), a subsidiary of NDC as Vice-President for Finance effective June 14, 1991while remaining as a regular employee of NDC. The additional employment entitled him to honoraria equivalent to fifty percent (50%) of his basic salary at NDC and various allowances attached to the office. In the course of the regular audit, the Corporate Auditor, MGC issued notices of disallowances against Mr. Ramon R. Yap which were predicated on the ground that appellants appointment to MGC in addition to his regular position as Department Manager III of NDC and the subsequent receipt of the questioned allowances and reimbursements from the former directly contravened the proscription contained in Section 7 (2) and Section 8, Article IX-b of the Constitution. Mr. Yap appealed the Auditors disallowances primarily contending that the questioned benefits were all approved by the MGC Board of Directors.

Petitioners appeal was denied by the CAO II, which affirmed the MGC Corporate Auditors findings.Unperturbed, petitioner sought a reconsideration of the CAO II ruling from respondent COA arguing that his assignment to MGC was required by the primary functions of his office and was also authorized by law, namely Executive Order No. 284 issued on July 25, 1987. In turn, respondent COA denied petitioners appeal in herein assailed COA Decision No. 2002-213.It upheld the CAO IIs ruling that characterized the disallowed allowances and reimbursements as prohibited by the Constitution.Furthermore, it also ruled that the said allowances and reimbursements claimed by petitioner failed to pass the test of public purpose requirement of the law and further emphasized that it is not enough that payments made to petitioner be authorized by the Board of Directors of the MGC but it is likewise necessary that said payments do not contravene the principles provided for under Section 4 of Presidential Decree No. 1445 on the use of government funds, more specifically on the public purpose requirement that is provided in Section 4(2) of Presidential Decree No. 1445, otherwise known as the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines.A Motion for Reconsiderationwas subsequently filed by petitioner, but this was likewise denied by respondent COA in COA Decision No. 2003-087.

ISSUE:

Did the COA commit grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction when it used as a basis the public purpose requirement in affirming the questioned disallowances?
HELD: Any disbursement of public funds, which includes payment of salaries and benefits to government employees and officials, must (a) be authorized by law, and (b) serve a public purpose. Public purpose in relation to disbursement of public funds means any purpose or use directly available to the general public as a matter of right.Thus, it has also been defined as an activity as will serve as benefit to the community as a body and which at the same time is directly related function of government.However, the concept of public use is not limited to traditional purposes.Here as elsewhere, the idea that public use is strictly limited to clear cases of use by the public has been discarded.In fact, this Court has already categorically stated that the term public purpose is not defined, since it is an elastic concept that can be hammered to fit modern standards.It should be given a broad interpretation; therefore, it does not only pertain to those purposes that which are traditionally viewed as essentially government functions, such as building roads and delivery of basic services, but also includes those purposes designed to promote social justice.Thus, public money may now be used for the relocation of illegal settlers, low-cost housing and urban or agrarian reform. In short, public use is now equated with public interest,and that it is not unconstitutional merely because it incidentally benefits a limited number of persons.

In view of the public purpose requirement, the disbursement of public funds, salaries and benefits of government officers and employees should be granted to compensate them for valuable public services rendered, and the salaries or benefits paid to such officers or employees must be commensurate with services rendered.In the same vein, additional allowances and benefits must be shown to be necessary or relevant to the fulfillment of the official duties and functions of the government officers and employees.Petitioners theory that the compensation and benefits of public officers are intended purely for the personal benefit of such officers, or that the mere payment of salaries and benefits to a public officer satisfies the public purpose requirement is wrong.That theory would lead to the anomalous conclusion that government officers and employees may be paid enormous sums without limit or without any justification necessary other than that such sums are being paid to someone employed by the government.Public funds are the property of the people and must be used prudently at all times with a view to prevent dissipation and waste.

DISMISSED

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