THE Supreme Court (SC) has granted full retirement and disability benefits to Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Ma. Cristina Cornejo in response to her application for optional retirement.
In an en banc decision, the SC said Justice Cornejo’s long and dedicated service “warrants no less than all the benefits that the law allows for her condition.”
‘Like many others, the hazards and difficulties of sitting in the bench take their toll on the best among us. We resolve that the benefits due to her be processed with the dispatch it deserves,” it added.
“Disability retirement is conditioned on the incapacity of the employee to continue his or her employment for involuntary causes such as illness or accident. The social justice principle behind retirement benefits also applies to those who are forced to cease from service for disabilities beyond their control,” the highcourt said as it ordered the Fiscal Management and Budget Office to compute the benefits due to Justice Cornejo under Republic Act No. 910, to be made available to her or her duly constituted guardian.
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang had informed the SC that Cornejo has been on sick leave since June 13, 2016 due to serious medical conditions.
Based on the reports submitted by the SC’s Dr. Prudencio Banzon, Jr., the SC opined that as of November 25, 2016, Cornejo has been “physically and medically incapacitated to perform her duties, and responsibilities as Sandiganbayan justice.”
Cornejo earlier wrote Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to request the approval of her optional retirement due to serious health concerns.
She stated that she had been in government service since August 1977 and has been in the judiciary from January 1987 to the present. Cornejo’s letter-request bore her thumbprint instead of a signature.
In the ruling, the SC granted the request for retirement, but with modification.
“Justice Cornejo will be 66 years, two (2) months, and 16 days old on March 1, 2017. She has been in government service for more than 39 years, the last 30 years of which she had continuously rendered in the judiciary,” the SC said.
“We acknowledge Justice Cornejo’s request for optional retirement. However, in light of Justice Cornejo’s actual medical condition, this court will treat her letter request as one for retirement due to disability.”
Section 3 of Republic Act No. 910, as amended, grants 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 if the reason for the retirement is any permanent disability contracted during his or her incumbency in office and before the date of retirement.
Consequently, Cornejo’s post at the Sandiganbayan was opened by the Judicial and Bar Council for application.