CEBU CITY -- The Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas has requested from the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) documents on the release of the P500,000-severance pay to its former board member.

Assistant Ombudsman for the Visayas Virginia Palanca-Santiago confirmed Thursday that her office sent a subpoena to the accountant of MCIAA last Wednesday and asked her to provide the anti-graft office with the documents.

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The documents were used as basis for the release of "severance pay" to former MCIAA board member and former Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 director Patria Aurora Roa.

But Santiago declined to disclose the documents her office requested from the MCIAA, saying the anti-graft office will use the papers to determine if the release of the severance pay to Roa is legal.

Santiago said her office is also looking into the claim of defeated gubernatorial candidate Hilario Davide III that Roa was not qualified to sit in the MCIAA board.

But four members of the MCIAA board on Thursday said the granting of severance pay to Roa is legal based on the agency's charter and the Corporate Code of the Philippines.

As to the issue raised by Davide that the pay given to Roa is not only illegal but also immoral, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said what is immoral to one can be moral to others.

In explaining Roa's P500,000-severance pay, Garcia, in a press conference, read Section 6, paragraph D of the MCIAA Charter. The provision provides that the board shall approve salary ranges, benefits and other terms and conditions of service for all officers and employees of the authority upon the recommendation of the general manager, which shall be competitive with those offered in the private sector.

"We did not make this provision. This was already contained even long before I sat here when the law which created the authority (was passed)," Garcia said.

"You should take note that the word 'be competitive' with those offered in the private sector is a responsibility that we must, as a board, consider when we now deliberate upon appropriate allowances or benefits or compensation to the members of the board, its officers and employees because when the power to approve salaries, benefits and other terms and conditions of service, was vested upon the board that power was so defined very clearly. But when we do approve such benefits, we should bear in mind that these benefits be competitive with those offered in the private sector," Garcia said.

Garcia said there may be questions on the definition of the word competitive.

"In very clear terms, at par, isn't it? If the private sector is giving one and a half month under the Labor Code for every year of service, let us be at par or higher than that because we must be competitive. In order to be fair, at least at par," Garcia said.

Garcia then referred the media to Gordon "Dondi" Joseph, president of the Cebu Business Club, and another member of the board, who discussed the benefits of members of a board in the private sector.

Gordon said the minimum compensation of a member of the board of directors of a major company is P3 million a year.

"These board members also received separation benefits so do the directors of other GOCCs (government-owned and -controlled corporations). When the board decided to give a retirement package to director Roa, we felt (she deserves it) after 15 years of meritorious and active service... That was the basis on our decision to grant her a retirement package, like the benefits received by the retired employees and officials at any other corporation and as vested in the law," Joseph said.

Joseph's reasoning runs counter to the earlier statement of DOT undersecretary Phineas Alburo that Roa cannot get retirement benefits from MCIAA because she was only representing the tourism agency to the board and that she is drawing her retirement from the DOT where she was under plantilla.

Joseph denied insinuations by some media personalities that members of the MCIAA board received huge benefits, including free flights (plane tickets).

"I can assure you that we received no free flights from anyone neither do we receive any benefits from any airline, regardless of what certain interests here are," Joseph said.

He said the P500,000 given to Roa was computed based on the 1.1 month per year of the 15 years of service she rendered.

MCIAA Board Member Valeriano "Bobit" Avila alleged that a group who wants to destroy the image of the airport authority is using the media but refused to name names.

"The issue (Roa's case) that has brought into is due to the fact that there is a serious misunderstanding not only by certain disgruntled employees but even in media on the rules of the board of directors in corporation," Avila said.

Garcia challenged those who questioned the morality of the board's decision to define the term.

"I would wish to ask those who are now crying to high heavens about morals if they themselves can truly answer that they are also truly moral. How much do they compensate their helpers in the house? How much do they compensate their drivers? How do they treat those that serve them?"

She said, "It is only God, the Supreme Being, who can in fact judge us on our own morality. But as a board, we act in accordance with the duties, powers and responsibilities vested upon us by this very law which creates the authority. This law was created not by us, long before us, but because we are here, we are bound to follow the letter of the law."

Davide earlier said Roa was not qualified to be a member of the board because RA 6958 only states that the DOT secretary, undersecretary or assistant may sit as ex-officio member of the board.

However, Garcia said that only the DOT that designated Roa can answer it. She said Roa was designated as member of the board for 15 years.

In answer to the question on why Roa received P500,000 instead of distributing the amount to the airport employees, Garcia said MCIAA has distributed more than P35 million in incentive bonuses to officers and employees. (Elias O. Baquero/With GMD of Sun.Star Cebu)