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CA affirms dismissal of LWUA auditors for getting prohibited bonuses

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The Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed the Ombudsman’s August 2015 dismissal of 14 Commission on Audit (COA) employees detailed at the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) for receiving prohibited bonuses.

In a recent 22-page decision, the CA Special 8th Division sustained the order finding Edna Anical, Thelma Baldovino, Evelyn de Leon, Juanito Daguno, Jr., Nestorio Ferrera, Violeta Gamil, Zoharayda Obog, Ligaya Principio, Jesusa Punsalan, Paulino Sarmiento, Teresita Tam, Roberto Villa, Corazon Cabotage, and Vilma Tiongson guilty of grave misconduct.

But, the CA reversed similar administrative sanctionss against Proceso Saavedra and Evangeline Sison because the complaint was only filed against them more than a year after their retirement.

This took them out of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction. The two received P692,609 and P183,812.50 in unauthorized bonuses.

The case arose from LWUA’s irregular disbursement of P25 million from 2006 to 2010 to government employees detailed at the agency.

Since this included COA employees, this violated the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989, which prohibited COA personnel from receiving additional compensation from the government entities they audit.

The CA said the Ombudsman’s findings were supported by substantial evidence, in the form of the letter instructions and checks received by the COA employees from LWUA.

The court noted that COA officials have to be treated differently from other national government officials because their functions require them to be “insulated from unwarranted influences, so that they can act with independence and integrity.”

“Petitioners cannot feign ignorance of the existing laws and rules regarding the prohibition of additional allowances and bonuses to COA employees. Ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Ma. Luisa Quijano-Padilla.

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