MANILA–The Supreme Court allowed Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Maria Cristina J. Cornejo to avail of early retirement with full benefits.
Cornejo, who turned 66 on March 1, opted to retire from the service earlier due to health reasons. She has been on sick leave since June 13, 2016.
Even if she has not reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 for members of the judiciary branch, the high court noted Cornejo’s commitment and dedication to government service as a valid reason for her to receive full retirement benefits.
“Justice Cornejo’s long and dedicated service warrants no less than all the benefits that the law allows for her condition,” the SC said in a unanimous full court decision
“Like many others, the hazards and difficulties of sitting in the bench take their toll on the best among us,” the SC said in a decision written by Associate Justice Mario Victor F. Leonen
The case of Justice Cornejo was brought to the attention of the SC by Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang. Earlier, Justice Cornejo also wrote to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno requesting her optional retirement.
”We rule to grant the request for retirement, but with modification. However, in light of Justice Cornejo’s actual medical condition, this Court will treat her letter request as one for retirement due to disability,” the SC said in its decision.
It said that under the law, Justice Cornejo is entitled to “a 10-year lump sum of 10 years’ gratuity-computed on the basis of the highest monthly salary plus the highest monthly aggregate of transportation, representation, and other allowances such as personal economic relief allowance (PERA) and additional compensation allowance to a retired Sandiganbayan Justice” since the reason for retirement “is permanent disability contracted during his or her incumbency in office and before the date of retirement.”
“We resolve that the benefits due to her be processed with the dispatch it deserves,” the SC stressed.
Medical records showed that Justice Cornejo had been diagnosed with “acute cerebrovascular disease in bilateral cerebral and cerebellar hemispheres, controlled hypertension, systemic lupus erythematous, pancytopenia, colon cancer stage III s/p left hemicolectomy, and acute kidney injury secondary to poor oral intake.”
Cornejo, who has been in government service for more than 39 years, the last 30 years of which she had continuously rendered in the judiciary