PASAY CITY – Top officials of the Clark Development Corporation appeared Tuesday before the Senate finance committee hearing on the alleged enormous paychecks being received by executives of government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs).

CDC president Benigno Ricafort was asked to appear before the Senate hearing after being reported as among the highest paid GOCC executives based on documents obtained from the Commission on Audit (COA), with alleged earnings of some P14.5 million in salaries in 2009.

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Also listed by COA were Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) administrator Armand Arreza (P26.9 million last year); Development Bank of the Philippines deputy executive officer Edgardo Garcia (P12.7 million); Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Armando Tetangco Jr. (P10.8 million); and DBP executive vice president Benedicto Bitonio Jr. (P9.3 million).

Also in the hearing were former Social Security System (SSS) president Romulo Neri, officers of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and former officials of the CDC and SBMA who appeared as resource persons.

Senate finance committee chair Franklin Drilon asked GOCC executives to clarify why their salaries have reached millions based on the COA report. Arreza, for his part, said that the 1992 mandated form of COA has “lumped” the agency funds under the care of the GOCC executives.

“My salary for 2009 is only P1.85 million and not P26.9 million. The other P24.8 million was not salary but in fact discretionary, intelligence and fuel consumption funds and are not part of my salary and benefits as SBMA administrator,” Arreza said.

Meanwhile, Ricafort, who will appear on another hearing on the issue on Thursday, said they have prepared answers and explanations on possible queries of the senators. Ricafort said that the main issue is the lumping of agency funds under the name of the fund custodian.

Ricafort disputed the report that he got P14.506 million in 2009, saying that he received “less than P3.0 million a year” in salaries and allowances. He said the P10 million cited in the COA report was just “lumped under [my] name and accountability, not as compensation,” and subject to audit and validation.

Ricafort said that CDC has always been transparent regarding his salary and all available documents are ready for scrutiny of the Senate. “We are also going to present to the Senate possible alternatives on the COA form so that it would be fair to all of us. Because the COA form is an old, old form wherein you just total the whole amount under one name,” Ricafort said. This was corroborated by former CDC president Levy P. Laus, who said that lumping of agency funds had always been reflected under the 1992 COA form as “locked” with the compensation of the CDC President.

“In my case, in 2008 I was reported to have received P10.9 million as compensation, when in reality I only received P1.4 million. The balance is actually the discretionary and intelligence fund of the agency which I did not receive but I was the fund custodian,” Laus said.

Laus added that the funds, if unused, are turned over to the next fund custodian. He said that in his case, funds under the discretionary and intelligence allocation were turned-over to Ricafort. “This proves that the funds are not salaries that we actually receive as we are mere custodians of the funds,” Laus said.

Meanwhile, Senators Drilon and Edgardo Angara ordered the COA to submit a report on the 1992 COA form and sit down with its regional director on the issue of salaries of executives of CDC and SBMA. The COA report would be submitted on Thursday during the continuation of the hearing on the said salary issue.

Angara, for his part, said that the people requested to appear in the hearing are “not presumed guilty” as the Senate would only need to get inputs to better improve the system of compensation for GOCCs. (Ian Ocampo Flora)