THE Commission on Audit (COA) has granted former La Trinidad, Benguet Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) Representative Marcelo Abela’s petition for a money claim worth P1 million of unpaid salaries and benefits.
In a decision made on Monday, January 31, the COA sided with former IP mandatory representative (MR) Abela’s claim, saying that he is entitled to P1,034,637.66 for representing the La Trinidad Indigenous Peoples Organization (LTIPO) in the municipal legislative body. COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo and Commissioner Roland Pondoc upheld the validity of Abela’s claim.
The sum is a combination of his unpaid salaries, allowances, and other benefits entitled to him during his tenure as an IPMR from October 8, 2014 to December 31, 2015.
COA cited National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Administrative Order No.1 s.1998 and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Memorandum Circular No. 2010-119, which stipulate that IPMRs are entitled to the same privileges as regular Sangguniang Bayan or council members.
Opposition to Abela’s position from the La Trinidad Legal Office claim Abela took service in the position knowing that he would not be entitled to compensation and essentially be a volunteer.
Additionally, the legal office argued that Abela cannot pursue his money claim due to his failure to initially assert it during budget deliberations that he participated in during his tenure.
However, COA said that the aforementioned arguments are moot in light of the administrative order and the memorandum circular cited.
“The contention of the municipality that Mr. Abela was working on a voluntary basis since he knew that there was no budget for his position deserves scant consideration. Section 13, Title II of NCIPAO No. 001, series of 2009, is clear that IPMR is entitled to compensation,” COA said.