MANILA –Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday asked the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release PHP139-million benefits for retired Public Attorneys Office (PAO) lawyers as ordered by Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC).
In his four-page letter address to Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, Aguirre said the DOJ agrees with the findings of the lower court “that a judicial declaration on the presence of ambiguity, which necessitates an interpretation, should have been sought by way of an action for declaratory relief.”
“This department takes the occasion of this definitive ruling of the RTC regarding the benefits of PAO retirees pursuant to the PAO law to reiterate its previous manifestation that it favors the release of the retirement benefits of the petitioners equal to those of their counterparts, that is, pursuant to the PAO Law in relation to the NPS (National Prosecution Service) Law,” Aguirre said.
Section 5 of RA 9406 provides that the rank, salary grades, salaries, allowances and other emoluments of the public attorneys shall be the same as those of their counterparts in the NPS, but Section 16 of RA 10071 provides otherwise.
The DOJ chief recommended to Diokno that the DBM complies with the RTC ruling as well.
“In the absence of the same, DBM-GSIS Circular No. 2013-1 and Budget Circular No. 2013-1, which recognize the rights of PAO retirees to gratuities same as those of their NPS (National Prosecution Service) counterparts, stand,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre said of the 40 PAO retirees who would benefit from the PHP139 million retirement package, five have already died- Valentin Daoas of Cordillera, Manuel Ramos of Region 2, Rody Alonzo of Davao City and Diosdado Savellano and Juan Suco of the National Capital Region.
The Quezon City RTC, in its ruling nullified the DBM Legal Services’ Opinion No. 14 issued in November 2015 which stated that lawyers from the Public Attorneys Office (PAO) are not entitled to the same retirement package as that of the prosecutors and judges.
But PAO insisted in their case that under Section 5 of the PAO Law, a PAO lawyer shall have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, salaries, allowances and retirement privileges as those of a public prosecutor.
The court agreed with PAO saying that they are entitled to the same retirement privileges as those of their counterparts in the National Prosecution Service under the PAO law (Republic Act 9406) and that reference shall be made on the retirement benefits of the prosecutors in the National Prosecution Service presently governed by the NAPROSS Law (Republic Act No. 11071).
The court said the PAO retirees “should comfortably enjoy their retirement in the relative security of a regular monthly pension and should not be denied benefit and left without means of sustenance.”
The court added that it is only fitting that a public servant who served for a great number of years be rewarded.
The petition was filed in June last year by retired PAO lawyers led by Elpidio Bacuyag, who are now senior citizens.