SC orders PCSO to refund illegally disbursed COLA

MANILA — The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the Board of Directors of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to refund the illegally disbursed amount of more than Php 381,000 representing the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) received by the officials and employees of PCSO-Nueva Ecija Provincial District Office in 2010.

In an en banc ruling written by Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, the SC denied the PCSO’s petition for certiorari seeking to annul and set aside the June 5, 2014 decision and Dec. 22, 2014 resolution of the Commission on Audit (COA) disallowing the same.

“The PCSO Board of Directors who approved Resolution No. 135, Series of 2008, and the five PCSO officials who were found liable by the COA are ordered [to refund the amount,]” the SC said.

On March 4, 2008, the PCSO Board of Directors, through a resolution, approved the payment of monthly COLA to its officials and employees for a period of three years in accordance with the Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA).

In 2010, the PCSO released the sum of Php 381,545.43 to all qualified officials and employees of its Nueva Ecija district office.

However, the COA issued a notice of disallowance on the COLA, saying that it was illegally disbursed, which was affirmed by the COA Proper until the case reached the SC.

In its ruling, the SC said that “the other PCSO officials and employees who had no participation in the approval and release of the disallowed benefit can be treated as having accepted the same on the mistaken assumption that Resolution No. 135 was issued in the valid exercise of the power vested in the Board of Directors under the PCSO charter.”

“They are deemed to have acted in good faith in the honest belief that they were entitled to such benefits,” the SC said.

“They can properly rely on the presumption that the Board acted regularly in the performance of its official duties in providing for the subject benefit. Their acceptance of the disallowed grant, in the absence of any competent proof of bad faith on their part, will not suffice to render them liable for a refund,” it added. PNA/