PAO retirees: 'We're not second-class lawyers, citizens'
MANILA, Philippines – The Public Attorneys Office (PAO) on Tuesday, April 12, accused Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad of blocking retirement benefits of retired government lawyers and decried their treatment as “second-class lawyers and citizens”.
PAO chief Persida Rueda Acosta sought an audience with Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas, asking him to grant the benefits of PAO retirees who are either sick, ageing, or dying.
“It is the right of the PAO retirees to receive their benefits. What we are asking is the full implementation of the PAO law,” Acosta told reporters, referring to Republic Act 9406, which reorganizes and strengthens the Public Attorney’s Office.
40 retirees of PAO asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to enable the full implementation of the PAO law under RA 9406.
PAO is challenging Budget department’s legal opinion which contradicts the PAO law. In a legal bulletin, the Department of Budget and Management said "R.A. No. 10071 was later enacted, providing under Section 166 that the Prosecutors of the NPS shall enjoy the same rank, salaries, allowances, and retirement benefits of justices and judges, as the case may be."
However, the bulletin said, "Section 16 last paragraph of R.A. No. 10071 limits the retirement benefits granted thereunder to the Prosecutors of NPS, to wit: 'Section 16. xxxx The salaries, allowances and other emoluments herein fixed shall not apply to officers other than those of prosecutors in the National Prosecution Service, notwithstanding any provision of law assimilating the salaries of other officers to those herein mentioned.'”
In a manifesto, the PAO retirees said, “The DBM cannot suddenly reverse itself through an alleged DBM Legal Opinion belatedly issued, when it previously allowed our contribution to the GSIS [Government Service Insurance System] to be decreased for about six (6) years or since May 2010, thereby treating us as SPECIAL MEMBERS of the GSIS with the advent of RA 10071.”
"We, the undersigned 40 retirees of the PAO, hereby express our fervent support to the full implementation of RA 9406, especially with regard to the retirement benefits and privileges granted therein in relation to RA 10071, in the light of the Letter dated March 11, 2016 of Secretary Abad of the DBM to Secretary Caparas of the DOJ, which has come to our attention," their petition said.
PAO is insisting lawyers are entitled to the same benefits as prosecutors who are under the National Prosecution Service.
Enduring the notion that some PAO lawyers are "second-class citizens" in the DOJ, the lawyers said what has kept them going is their love for their calling and their passion to help the poor. – Rappler.com