PAO retirees win case vs former Budget chief

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The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) has won its case before a regular court against former Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, who had ordered the blocking of retirement benefits of retired government lawyers in the country.

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PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta lauded the victory of the public defenders in the country after a 42-page decision by Quezon City Redional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Maria Gilda Loja-Pangilinan, dated February 14 was released and granted their petition.

The PAO retirees had pleaded for full implementation of the PAO Law or Republic Act 9406.

The office itself had questioned the DBM legal opinion, which contradicted the PAO Law.

“Wherefore, premises considered, the court hereby finds: Petitioners’ petition for certiorari is hereby granted.

DBM LS Opinion No. 14, dated 6 November 2015, issued by Respondent Rowena Candice M. Ruiz, Legal Service head, Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and affirmed by respondent Secretary Florencio B. Abad is hereby annulled and set aside for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction,” the ruling stated.

The court also granted a petition for mandamus of the PAO and ordered “respondent DBM [that]is hereby directed to cause the immediate release of the retirement benefits of herein petitioners PAO retirees in accordance with DBM and GSIS Joint Circular No. 2013-1 and Budget Circular No. 2013-1, in relation to the PAO
Law and NAPROSS [National Prosecution Service] Law.”

GSIS is the Government Service Insurance System.

The RTC said the PAO lawyers are the defenders of the people and must not be forgotten upon their retirement.
It added that their toil and sacrifices must be recognized and rewarded for their long years of service to the people and to the justice system.

“In their long hours of toil, dedication and hard work to give true meaning to the term ‘public servants’ lie their equality and congruence for which they should be amply rewarded and recognized. After honorably serving office for a great number of years, public servants, as herein petitioners PAO retirees, should conformably enjoy their retirement in the relative security of a regular monthly pension and should not be denied benefit and left without means of sustenance. A perceived ambiguity or uncertainty in the application of the law should not serve to deny them such recognition and reward. Public Attorneys retirees deserve to be provided the wherewithal to live a life of relative comfort, dignity and security after years of honorable service in the government,” the court said.

“In this case, petitioners have established their right based on the PAO Law in relation to the NAPROSS Law, which , absent any provision expressly repealing one by the other and/or a court’s judicial declaration of invalidity, are both valid and existing,” the decision read.

The lower court said “it is clear from the provisions of the PAO Law that PAO retirees are entitiled to the same retirement privileges as those of their counterparts in the National Prosecution Service and the reference shall be made on the retirement benefits of the prosecutors.”

The PAO retirees who were the actual petitioners in the case are Amelia Garchitorena, Bonifacio Guyot, Cynthia Vargas, Gaudencia Fineza Jr., Romeo Sunga, Teresita de Guzman, Jesus Garrucha Jr., Marcelo Cabana, Reynaldo Casas, Carmelito Sumile, Renato Cabrido, Florencio Diloy, Macapangcat Mama, Elidio Bacuyag, Oscar Melad and Arnulfo Singson.

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