Retired PAO lawyers to gov’t: Don’t abandon us
Retired public attorneys have appealed to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release the P139-million retirement benefits it has been withholding since 2010.
“With no more income from any form of employment, we are relying on our retirement package to support our needs for sustenance—utilities, food and most of all, medicines. Most of us are nearing the end of our days and slowly, our bodies are beginning to succumb to various forms of illness; yet, we refuse to accept even the remote possibility that we will be abandoned by this government, our former employer, in a hapless state,” the 40 retired lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) said in their manifesto.
Used as basis for the computation of the P139-million total retirement gratuity package for the public defenders was Republic Act No. 9406 or the PAO Law in relation to RA 10071 or the National Prosecution Service Law (Napross Law).
The DBM, in the opinion released by its legal service, said PAO lawyers were not entitled to the same retirement package as that of prosecutors and judges.
Section 5 of the PAO Law, meanwhile, states that a PAO lawyer “shall have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, salaries, allowances and retirement privileges” given to a public prosecutor.
The last paragraph of Section 16 of the Napross Law, however, provides that “the salaries, allowances and other emoluments herein fixed shall not apply to officers other than those of prosecutors in the National Prosecution Service, notwithstanding any provision of law assimilating the salaries of other officers to those herein mentioned.”
The DBM sought legal opinion from the Department of Justice who turned the request into an arbitration proceeding where the PAO was the respondent and set a hearing on May 3.
Incumbent PAO lawyers, in a separate manifesto in support of their retired colleagues, said Section 16 of the Napross Law was a general provision that may not repeal the PAO Law’s Section 5, which was a special provision.
“To interpret the Napross Law as repealing the PAO Law would be to offend the legislative intent of Congress in enacting both laws,” the manifesto stated.
PAO lawyers also scored the current position of the DBM as it pointed out that its previous issuances—a letter to former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, DBM and Government Service Insurance System Joint Circular 2013-1 signed by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad himself—recognized that they were entitled to the same benefits as those of public prosecutors.
PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said the only benefits being claimed by the retirees were the return of the premium and life insurance from the GSIS.
The return of the premium PAO lawyers are requesting is the reimbursement of excess of six percent deducted from them. A premium of nine percent had been deducted previously before it was cut down to three percent.
“It is not enough to support the needs of our retirees,” Acosta said.
She added that unless the DBM releases the gratuity package, the retirees could not get a monthly pension.
“They have to get the five-year lump sum from DBM first before they can get their monthly pension,” Acosta said.
Of the 40 lawyers, eight are bedridden while two have died. RC
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