MANILA — The Sandiganbayan has convicted three government executives for failure to remit premium contributions of their employees to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) as required under Republic Act No. 8291, or the revised “Government Service Insurance System Act.”
In two separate decisions promulgated by the Sandiganbayan in August 2017, the anti-graft court convicted former Lantawan, Basilan Mayor Tahira Ismael and Municipal Treasurer Aida Ajijon of violations of RA No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”, and Section 3 of RA No. 8291, or the “GSIS Act”.
The two were sentenced to imprisonment of six to 10 years for graft and two to four years for violating the GSIS law.
The Sandiganbayan also imposed the accessory penalties of absolute perpetual disqualification from holding public office and prohibition from practicing any profession licensed by the government.
Court records show that the local executives failed to remit contributions from July 2001 to February 2003 totaling PHP3,118,005.
As a result of this administrative lapse, the loan privileges of employees of Lantawan were suspended to the injury and prejudice of the municipal government.
Ismael tried to cover up for the non-remittance, explaining that Ajijon failed to prepare the corresponding vouchers for the remittance.
“This argument is skewed,” Associate Justice Reynaldo Cruz said in his Aug. 2, 2017 ruling.
“The Local Government Code explicitly grants the municipal mayor the power to exercise general supervision and control over the activities of the municipal government, which carries the responsibility of ensuring that all executive officials and employees of the municipality faithfully discharge their duties and functions as provided by law,” the decision read.
The Sandiganbayan ruling also said that “in effect the proximate cause of the non-remittance of the GSIS contributions can be traced from the failure of accused Ismael, as the municipal mayor, to exercise her power of general supervision and control over all the activities of the municipality.
“Accused Ismael cannot feign ignorance about the unremitted GSIS contributions as [these] statements confirmed that she was fully aware of the non-remittance thereof. And, despite her knowledge of the problem, she ignored the advice given to her and chose not to remit the GSIS contributions. In the same vein, accused Ajijon is not blameless, as the Municipal Treasurer, she is duty bound to advice the Municipal Mayor about the disbursement of local funds and matters relating to public finance,” the decision added.
In a separate decision promulgated on Aug. 7, 2017, former Philippine National Railways (PNR) General Manager Jose Sarasola II was also found guilty of violating the GSIS Act.
This developed after the accused decided to enter a guilty plea to the lesser offense of violation of the GSIS law.
In this case, Sarasola failed to remit 49 contributions of a certain Benjamin Guinto from June 2000 to May 2004, all totaling PHP52,632.28.
The Sandiganbayan ordered the accused to pay a fine of PHP5,000 for each count, or a total of PHP245,000.
Under the GSIS Law, the accountability for the deduction and remittance of GSIS contributions falls squarely upon the head of office and other officials designated by law. (PNA)