THE Court of Appeals (CA) has turned down the assessment made by a Manila court in connection with the entitlement of two retired fire officers to their pension under the 2010 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
In an April 4, 2014 decision penned by Associate Justice Eduardo Peralta Jr., the CA’s 10th Division granted the appeal of the government led by Paquito Ochoa Jr. in his capacity as executive secretary.
“[T]he assailed decision of March 28, 2012 and the order dated October 30, 2012 are hereby set aside and the petition for mandamus is hereby dismissed,” the ruling said.
In line with Sec. 12, Art. XV of the 1973 Constitution, Presidential Decree 765 established the Integrated National Police (INP), consisting of the police, fire departments and jails, and with the Philippine Constabulary (PC), as its nucleus. Petitioners-appellees, retired Fire Chief Supt. Antonio Lopena Jr. and retired Fire Insp. Manuel Ambulo, et al., who were members of the local community fire brigades during the 1960’s, became members of the PC-INP.
They were absorbed by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) upon the enactment of Republic Act 6975. They retired at the age of 56.
However, because they did no reach the age of 60 when they retired, they were ineligible for the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) old- age pension.
In lieu of this, the petitioners were accorded gratuity equivalent to one month’s salary for every year of service for a maximum of 20 years as provided for in R.A. 1616.
After their alleged receipt of superior retirement benefits pursuant to R.A. 6975 in 2007, petitioners-appellees claimed the retroactive application of the benefits for the period 1991 to 2006.
To pursue their claim, they wrote a uniform letter to the budget department, among others, for the release of the P50 million from the P742,575,000 Pension and Gratuity Fund of the BFP provided for in the fiscal year 2010 GAA or R.A. 9770, as the amount allegedly had been appropriated for their retirement benefits.
The petitioners-appellees received a favorable verdict from the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 10, when they filed a petition for mandamus.
This prompted the Office of the General that represents the government to bring this case to the appeals court.
In the ruling, the CA ruled that contrary to petitioners-appellees’ asseveration, “evidence was clearly wanting that would support a finding that the P50 million was not released by the President in 2010 and thus would have consituted as an infringement of Sec. 67 of the 2010 GAA or the Prohibition Against Impoundment of Appropriations.”
“Since the P50 million had admittedly not been released to petitioners-appellees in 2010, the fund automatically reverted to the General Fun as provided for in Executive Order (E.O.) No. 292,” it pointed out.
Concuring with the verdict were Associate Justices Magdangal de Leon and Stephen Cruz.