Sandigan denies Iloilo solon’s claim for unpaid wages as ex-Senate staff

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    ILOILO City Rep. Julienne L. Baronda will have to wait a little longer to collect her unpaid salaries and benefits as a former Senate staff after the Commission on Audit (COA) denied her money claim due to incomplete supporting documents.

    COA Chairman Michael G. Aguinaldo and Commissioners Jose A. Fabia and Roland C. Pondoc said Baronda can refile her claim once she has completed the needed documents.

    Audit records showed the lawmaker previously served as Supervising Legislative Officer II for the office of former senator Joseph Victor Ejercito but was not paid her initial salary from July 21 to December 31, 2014 totaling P418,807.92, and grocery and transportation allowances worth P31,750, for a total of P450,557.92.

    The Senate, through then Senate Secretary Oscar Yabes, sent the Department of Budget and Management a request dated May 13, 2015 seeking authority to appropriate funds in the 2015 Senate budget to cover payment of unbooked 2014 obligations, which included Baronda’s claim.

    The DBM advised the Senate to file a money claim with the COA. Yabes wrote to the supervising auditor assigned at the Senate reiterating the request that it made to the DBM, but was likewise advised to file the necessary claims with the agency.

    In a decision issued December 28, 2017, the COA notified the Senate that the proper claimants are the real party in interest or agency employees who have the legal right to receive payments they are entitled to.

    Following this ruling, Baronda filed her petition for money claim, submitting a certification from the Senate’s Office of the Chief of Staff for Administrative and Finance that she has not been paid the claimed compensation, an obligation request, a journal entry voucher, and a disbursement voucher.

    In a manifestation dated October 4, 2018, the Office of the Senate Secretary informed the COA that it was not contesting the claim and acknowledged that Baronda’s request for payment was valid, due and demandable.

    In its ruling, the COA held that Baronda’s claim cannot be given due course on the ground of non-compliance with the required support documents.

    Citing COA Circular No. 2012-001, the commission said the petitioner failed to submit eight mandatory documents including a certified true copies of her Approved Appointment, her Oath of Office, Certificate of Assumption, Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN), Daily Time Records (DTRs), withholding tax certificates from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and payroll information on a new employee.

    “In this case, petitioner had not sufficiently established her claim for payment due to the absence of the afore-cited documents. The same could not be substantiated and this Commission could not determine its propriety,” the COA said.

    Baronda ran for election in May 2019 and won on her first try for the lone congressional district of Iloilo City.