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Even if legal, GOCC bonuses are immoral

/ 01:48 AM January 17, 2014

Actually, we do not need the Commission on Audit to tell us that the officials of government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) abused their authority by giving themselves lavish bonuses.

Imagine, these officials gave themselves million-peso bonuses when the ordinary Filipino, who pays the premiums that the GOCCs spend, can hardly make both ends meet from the salary that he receives. To make matters worse, some of these GOCCs, like the Social Security System and Philhealth, are increasing the premiums that their members have to pay without increasing their benefits. It is the officials who get all the benefits.

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The COA has ordered the GOCC officials to return the bonuses that they got, which, all told, amount to P2.313 billion. A day after the newspapers published the COA revelation and order, these officials scrambled to defend their generous bonuses. But of course they will.

Consider the irony. The topnotcher among the 31 GOCCs mentioned by the COA is Philhealth. It paid P1.651 billion in bonuses in 2012. Yet it gives only a pittance to members who get sick. And Philhealth has the longest justification for the extravagant bonuses. SSS officials got million-peso bonuses, but it pays members, who spent almost a lifetime paying SSS premiums, retirement benefits they cannot survive on.

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The GOCCs claim their generous bonuses were approved by the Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG). The GCG was formed to watch over the compensation of GOCC executives and employees after a Senate inquiry into the over-overgenerous compensation package of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System. (MWSS officials and employees get 36 months of pay for 12 months of work.)

But the GCG only made things worse. It approved all the requests of GOCCs for increases in bonuses and compensation. It was supposed to be a watchdog to prevent abuses, but it turned out to be only a lapdog. It did not save money for the taxpayers, it only increased the expenses. Besides the bonuses of GOCCs, we have to pay the salaries and allowances of GCG officials and employees. Do not forget that many of the GOCCs are subsidized by the national government.

The GCG’s leniency only made GOCC executives bolder, greedier, and more shameless. The increases in bonuses rose steadily after the creation of the GCG. Official greed and selfishness knew no bounds. As long as the GCG approves the increases, the GOCCs claim that these are legal and aboveboard.

But what about their morality? Is it moral to pay officials extravagant bonuses when members who pay the premiums get peanuts in benefits? Is it moral to tell members to pay higher premiums when officials give themselves million-peso bonuses?

Our Constitution prohibits members of Congress from increasing their salaries. Why can’t there be a similar prohibition for GOCC officials to increase or even give themselves bonuses?

Our regulatory bodies, like the GCG, are a disappointment. They are supposed to regulate other agencies and private corporations to protect the public from abuse. Whether it is the Energy Regulatory Commission which oversees the power industry, the Toll Regulatory Board which regulates the fees exacted from motorists, the MWSS which is supposed to watch over the rates charged by water distributors, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board which regulates transport fares, etc., they protect the companies and agencies they are supposed to regulate instead of the defenseless public for whose protection they were created in the first place. All the regulated sectors have to do is ask for an increase, and the regulatory bodies grant it after going through the motions of determining the fair rate.

These regulatory bodies should be revamped.

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Business executives see “a lot of corruption in government,” the Social Weather Stations told a Good Governance Summit the other day. There’s no need to tell ordinary Filipinos that. They see it every day, whether among ordinary employees or ranking officials like members of Congress. SWS should do a survey of people who do business in the Bureau of Customs. Or of lawyers who practice in our courts of law.

It is not only in the BOC or the judiciary but almost in all levels of the bureaucracy. Often, ordinary citizens cannot get any official document released or get anything done in a government office without greasing some palms. Indeed, go to certain government offices and you will see many desk drawers half-open. Why? So the citizens doing business with the employee can drop their peso bills there.

The Land Transportation Office used to be crawling with fixers. You could not get a driver’s license or your vehicle’s plate number without going to a fixer. Happily, they are gone now.

It used to be the same thing with the LTFRB. It was said that you could get almost anything from the LTFRB if the price is right and you hire a fixer. That is why the agency issued so many franchises to buses and jeepneys. We are all suffering now due to the traffic jams that the excess of franchises issued to public transports have created.

Is it still going on in the LTFRB? I don’t know. I have not gone there in a long time. But we will see in the way it handles the latest request for a fare increase from jeepney associations.

It used to be: The transport sector asks and the LTFRB grants. Hopefully, it is no longer like that.

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TAGS: bonuses, column, Commission on Audit, corruption, government corporations, neal h. cruz, summit on good governance
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