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House OKs expanded pension benefits for judiciary officials

The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill expanding the pension benefits of judiciary officials.

House Bill 8392, which amends Section 1 of Republic Act 910 governing the grant of retirement benefits to members of the judiciary, got 266 "yes" votes.

Under the bill, the retirement benefits allocated to justices of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals, Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Shari'a District Court, Shari'a Circuit Court, or any other court hereafter established will also be granted to judiciary officials conferred with the same rank as a justice or a judge of the said courts.

These come with the condition that they have reached the age of 60 and rendered at least fifteen 15 years of service in the iudiciary or in any other branch of the government, the last three of which have been continuously served in the judiciary.

The pro-rata monthly pension for the judges, justices and judiciary officials of the same rank is computed as number of years in government or judiciary divided by 15 years multiplied by the basic pay the highest monthly aggregate of transportation, representation and other allowances such as personal economic relief allowance (PERA).

For the pension to be granted, a retiring judge, justice or judiciary official or his/her surviving spouse receiving the benefits should not appear as counsel before any court in any civil case wherein the government or any subdivision or instrumentality thereof is the adverse party.

The judiciary official is also barred from participating in any criminal case wherein an incumbent or former officer or employee of the government is accused of an offense committed in relation to his/her office, or collect any fee for his/her appearance in any administrative proceedings to maintain an interest to the government, national, provincial or municipal, or to any of its legally constituted officers.

The bill also states that “All pension benefits of retired members of the judiciary and judiciary officials with judicial rank, salary and privileges will be automatically increased whenever there is an increase in the salary and allowances of the same position from which they retired.”

“This measure recognizes the substantial equality in the roles of judiciary officials conferred with judicial rank in the judiciary vis-à-vis the members of the judiciary, and which entitles these officials to all retirement benefits being received by their counterpart justices and judges,” Speaker Martin Romualdez of Leyte  said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Davao City Representative Paolo Duterte urged the Senate to take action on the measure.

“Fairness and the equal application of the law are among the tenets that the judiciary is mandated to uphold and protect. Ironically, through no fault of their own, these tenets are not followed by the judiciary when it comes to providing  retirement benefits to certain officials simply because of the lack of a law that standardizes the grant of such benefits,” Duterte, one of the bill's authors, said.

“The enactment of a new law through the passage of the reconciled version of House Bill 8392 and the Senate's counterpart measure is the solution to this gross violation of the equal protection clause enshrined in our Constitution,” he added.—LDF, GMA Integrated News