ON AUDIT DECISION NO. 2001-124
R E S O L U T I O N
Under COA Decision No. 2000-262 dated September 12, 2000, this Commission denied the request of appellants for the lifting of the disallowance on the compensation and other benefits received in 1997 in excess of the allowable per diems under Sec. 13 of P.D. No. 198, as amended.
The instant motion assigns the following errors: (1) the term "compensation" is construed as encompassing all benefits and allowances; and (2) the presumption of legality given to implementing guidelines issued by an administrative agency like LWUA is violated.
On the first assignment of error, it is worth mentioning that under Opinion No. 97-015 dated August 7, 1997, this Commission opined that members of the Board of Directors of water districts are not entitled to receive compensation and other benefits except that which is provided under Section 13 of P.D. No. 198. Thereunder, the compensation of the water district board of directors refers only to per diem. Therefore, any other compensation or benefit other than the allowable per diem is prohibited.
On the second assignment of error, the appellants correctly pointed out that the Supreme Court has indeed declared that this Commission is not authorized to substitute its own judgment for any applicable law or administrative regulation the wisdom and propriety of which it does not agree (Eslao v. Commission On Audit, 236 SCRA 161 ). This pronouncement, however, should be viewed only within the context of that specific case and not as having established an absolute rule which would negate this Commission's authority to initially interpret the applicable laws and regulations in the exercise of its quasi-judicial powers. In the later case of Conte v. Commission On Audit, 264 SCRA 19 , the Supreme Court affirmed this Commission's declaration that the financial assistance authorized by SSS Resolution No. 56 results in increased benefits beyond what is allowed under existing retirement laws. In upholding the action, the Supreme Court declared:
This pronouncement only confirms this Commission's prerogative to refuse recognition of a policy which contravenes the provisions of existing laws.
Clearly, this Commission may interpret and apply the law in any case within its jurisdiction as the same is necessary to the discharge of its constitutionally mandated duties. In doing so, it is not arrogating the power to declare an administrative regulation invalid, which only the courts of justice can do. It merely recognizes the supremacy of the law applicable to the subject matter over the regulation or policy whose repugnancy to that law has been established. A contrary view would even result to the enforcement of invalid administrative regulations or policies if this Commission will always accede to the presumption of legality of the actions of all government agencies. This has been the consistent stand of this Commission in all water district cases involving the issue of compensation and there appears to be no sufficient justification to deviate therefrom.
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, and there being no new and material evidence adduced which would warrant a modification or reversal of the assailed decision, the herein motion for reconsideration has to be, as it is hereby, denied with finality, for lack of merit.
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