MANILA-- Sen. Loren Legarda on Wednesday lauded the Quezon City court's ruling ordering the release of PHP178 million worth of retirement benefits for lawyers working for the Public Attorneys Office (PAO).
Legarda, in a statement, said that it was about time that the court recognized the rights of retired public attorneys to compensation and gratuity benefits.
It's about time that we recognize the significant contributions of our PAO lawyers by fully implementing the retirement privileges of public attorneys pursuant to the law, Legarda said.
They have spent many years providing legal services to indigent litigants, the oppressed, marginalized and underprivileged Filipinos. It is only fitting to give these public servants the benefits they rightfully deserve, she added.
She said that she supported the PAO advocacy as they fought for the release of the retirement benefits pointing out that most of them rely on their retirement package to support their needs for medication, food and regular check-ups.
The senator further said that out of 57 claimants for the P78-million gratuity package, two have already passed away while 15 are bedridden and suffering from serious health illness.
Moreover, she lauded Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno for complying with the decision of the court as part of the pro-social justice program of the current administration.
In its decision, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 230 nullified the Department of Budget and Management's (DBM) Legal Services Opinion No. 14 issued on November 2015 which stated that PAO lawyers are not entitled to the same retirement package as that of prosecutors and judges.
However, 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 in its ruling 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 to the retirement benefits of the prosecutors in the National Prosecution Service presently governed by the NAPROS Law (Republic Act No. 11071).
Source: Philippines News Agency