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As I See It

GSIS sued for refusal to pay benefits

/ 12:20 AM October 17, 2014

What’s happening to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS)? While incumbent GSIS officials have apparently given themselves multimillion-peso bonuses and other benefits, many members are complaining about not receiving their own benefits, as witness the numerous contributions to the Letters to the Editor section of the newspapers, including the Inquirer.

One former member of the board of trustees, lawyer Jesus I. Santos, has already filed charges at the Office of the Ombudsman against GSIS president and general manager Roberto G. Vergara and other officers of the insurance agency. The Ombudsman has given due course to the complaint and ordered the respondents to file their answers.

Santos served as a trustee of the GSIS for six years. He was a member of the agency’s Provident Fund, which provides supplementary benefits to GSIS employees upon their retirement, disability, or separation from the service, and definite amounts to their beneficiaries in case of death.

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His contributions to the Provident Fund were automatically deducted from his monthly salary, he said in his complaint.

Santos retired as trustee of the GSIS in 2010. Thus, he was entitled to withdraw his contributions to the Provident Fund. However, the incumbent GSIS management refuses to pay him his benefits. He has sent numerous letters to the GSIS asking for the release of his contributions to the Provident Fund, to no avail.

In a letter of response dated May 2, 2014, GSIS president and GM Vergara said the nonrelease of Santos’ benefits was due to Executive Order No. 7, series of 2010, which suspended the release of benefits to former trustees. However, he deliberately withheld the information that the EO was effective only until Dec. 31, 2010. Thus, the former trustees were entitled to their benefits after 2010.

In the same letter, Vergara cited a notice of disallowance issued by the Commission on Audit (COA) on Dec. 1, 2011, which prohibited the release of Provident Fund benefits to trustees on the ground that they are not salaried officials.

Santos asked: What happened to the period between Dec. 31, 2010, when EO 7 expired, and Dec. 31, 2011, when the COA notice of disallowance was issued? During that period, there was no impediment to the release of benefits and, in fact, the benefits of other former trustees were released except those of Santos and another trustee, the late National Artist Alejandro Roces, a former secretary of education. The GSIS management discriminated against him and Roces, Santos said.

Moreover, according to Santos, the COA notice of disallowance is void for being contrary to Section 41 (s) of Republic Act No. 8291 and GSIS rules that trustees are entitled to Provident Fund benefits.

Santos also said that the COA notice of disallowance could not be used against him as he was not notified, much less impleaded, with regard to it. He said he was denied the due process guaranteed by the Constitution.

Furthermore, as early as May 11, 2006, the Government Corporate Counsel (GCC) opined that GSIS trustees are included in the term “officers and employees” stated in the GSIS Charter “for purposes of their inclusion in the appropriate compensation package for the entire GSIS bureaucracy.”

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“The law does not distinguish who are the officers qualified for the benefits,” the GCC said, adding that trustees are considered “officers.” Repeating a well-known Supreme Court principle, the GCC said, “When the law does not distinguish, we should not distinguish.”

“This Office therefore finds no legal impediment to a member of the GSIS Board of Trustees becoming a member of the Provident Fund… Neither does it find any legal obstacle to a member of the GSIS Board of Trustees being included in the establishment, fixing, review, revision and adjustment of the appropriate compensation packages for GSIS officers and employees, including reasonable allowances, incentives/bonuses, privileges, and other benefits under RA 8291,” the GCC concluded.

“Clearly, from the foregoing,” Santos said in his complaint, “the respondents violated … the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act … which penalizes public officers for corrupt practices in the performance of their duty, even after the lapse of more than three years, without sufficient justification, causing injury to me and committed with manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence.”

Santos asked the Ombudsman to treat the criminal complaint as an administrative complaint against the respondents. The penalty is dismissal from office.

The Ombudsman has given the GSIS respondents 10 days to answer the complaint.

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TAGS: As I See It, benefits, GSIS, neal h. cruz, opinion
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