THE SUPREME Court (SC) upheld the 2010 ruling of the Commission on Audit (COA) that disallowed the awarding of P1.19 million in cash gifts by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) in Iloilo City to its employees on its 15th anniversary.

In its decision dated Feb. 2 and published on June 30, the court dismissed PhilHealth’s 2014 petition to dismiss the COA decision for lack of merit.

The High Court said that the gift amounting to P10,000 per employee exceeded the P3,000 ceiling under Administrative Order 263 and National Budget Circular 452.

The court also assailed PhilHealth’s claim that it enjoys fiscal autonomy based on its original charter, saying that such autonomy is not absolute and must conform with prevailing rules and regulations issued by the president of the Philippines and/or the Department of Budget and Management.

The SC further ordered the approving officials and payees to refund the disallowed amount. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago