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Enrile will testify to back PAO retirees on benefit claims

/ 04:43 PM June 15, 2016
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Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/RAFFY LERMA

Outgoing Senator Juan Ponce Enrile on Friday will testify in support of the move of retired public lawyers to claim their retirement benefits that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had been withholding since 2010.

Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said Enrile, together with former Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño, will testify before the Quezon City Court to back the petition of PAO retirees.

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READ: Retired PAO lawyers to gov’t: Don’t abandon us

Casiño had earlier questioned the decision of the DBM in withholding the retirement benefits.

The retired PAO lawyers, in their petition before the QC Court, said Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad had been blocking the release of their retirement pay.

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“We beg leave to stress that the DBM, Secretary Abad and Atty. [Candice] Ruiz (Legal Service Head of the Department of Budget and Management) are unlawfully and illegally withholding the PAO retirees’ retirement pay in sheer violation of the PAO Law and the National Prosecution Service Law (NAPROSS),” the petition for mandamus which was filed before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court stated.

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 Atty. Ruiz, said PAO lawyers are 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 retirees said the DBM has been inconsistent with its stand because its previous issuances—a letter to former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, DBM and Government Service Insurance System Joint Circular 2013-1 signed Abad—recognized that they were entitled to the same benefits as those of public prosecutors.

The retirees said by changing its stand, “the DBM, Secretary Abad and Atty. Ruiz violated the PAO retirees’ and the public attorneys’ vested rights under the law.  Worse, by referring the matter to the DOJ when the latter clearly has no jurisdiction, the DBM and Secretary Abad unjustifiably delayed the release of the PAO retirees’ retirement benefits. Bad faith and malice are, therefore, quite noticeable.”

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They also assailed the DBM policy to increase the Government Service Insurance System Retirement and Life Insurance Premium (RLIP) allocation for the 2017 Forward Estimates from the current three percent.

The PAO retirees added that most of them are already ailing and that two of their members had already died.

Last April, the group came up with a manifesto decrying their plight.

“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,” they lamented. RAM

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TAGS: DBM, Department of Budget and Management, PAO, Public Attorney’s Office, retired public lawyers, Retirement Benefits, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile
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