• Military personnel’s retirement pay may be garnished for spousal support

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    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    I filed for a protection order against my husband, who recently retired from the Army, because he was physically abusing me. The court decided in my favor, directing him, among others, to stop committing further acts of physical violence against me, to refrain from harassing, annoying, intimidating and contacting me, and to provide reasonable financial spousal support. He, however, did not comply, so the court issued a permanent protection order, and directed the Army finance center to automatically deduct 50 percent of his retirement benefits and claims and give them directly to me. The center argued that it cannot deduct his retirement benefits automatically because suvh benefits of military personnel are exempt from execution. Is this correct?
    Sincerely yours,
    Emily

    Dear Emily,
    Your situation is similar to the case of Republic of the Philippines represented by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Finance Center (AFPFC) v. Daisy R. Yahon (G.R. No. 201043, 16 June 2014), penned by former Associate Justice Martin Villarama Jr., wherein the Supreme Court held that under Republic Act (RA) 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004, even retirement benefits of military personnel are not exempt from execution. According to the Supreme Court:

    “We hold that Section 8(g) of RA 9262, being a later enactment, should be construed as laying down an exception to the general rule above-stated that retirement benefits are exempt from execution. The law itself declares that the court shall order the withholding of a percentage of the income or salary of the respondent by the employer, which shall be automatically remitted directly to the woman ‘[n]otwithstanding other laws to the contrary.’

    xxx    xxx    xxx
    “Section 8(g) of RA 9262 used the general term ‘employer,’ which includes in its coverage the military institution, S/Sgt. Yahon’s employer. Where the law does not distinguish, courts should not distinguish. Thus, Section 8(g) applies to all employers, whether private or government.

    “It bears stressing that Section 8(g) providing for spousal and child support, is a support enforcement legislation. In the United States, provisions of the Child Support Enforcement Act allow garnishment of certain federal funds where the intended recipient has failed to satisfy a legal obligation of child support. As these provisions were designed “to avoid sovereign immunity problems” and provide that “moneys payable by the government to any individual are subject to child support enforcement proceedings,” the law is clearly intended to “create a limited waiver of sovereign immunity so that state courts could issue valid orders directed against government agencies attaching funds in their possession.”

    In your situation, your husband’s retirement benefits are not exempt from execution. Even if his retirement pay is payable by the government, his money may be garnished or executed upon to pay for spousal or child support. Thus, the court’s order to grant 50 percent of his retirements benefits to you still stands.

    Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

    We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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    1 Comment

    1. So why then does a government agency like the Army finance center pretend not to know the law or comply with the law ?