DBM blocking benefits of PAO lawyers? Both have basis – DOJ

DBM blocking benefits of PAO lawyers? Both have basis – DOJ
Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas says both parties' arguments 'prescind from a divergence in the interpretation' of the PAO law and the Prosecution Service Act of 2010

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) said lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) are entitled to retirement pay, but it also said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has basis for blocking the said benefits.

This was the legal opinion of Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas on the accusation of retired PAO lawyers that Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad and the DBM allegedly blocked the release of their retirement benefits.  

Caparas said the DOJ was “constrained” to release an opinion because the 40 retired PAO lawyers already brought the matter before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.  

“[T]o do so would not only be improper but also impractical since the ruling of this Department has no binding effect upon the courts,” said Caparas. 

Still, he said that both the PAO’s and DBM’s actions are justifiable according to the law. 

He said both parties’ arguments “prescind from a divergence in the interpretation” of Section 5 of Republic Act (RA) No 9406 or the PAO law in relation to Section 16 of RA No 10071 or the Prosecution Service Act of 2010. 

“While Section 5, RA 9406 clearly provides that the rank, salary grade, allowances and other emoluments of the public attorneys shall be the same as those of their counterparts in the National Prosecution Services, the prohibition in Section 16, RA 10071, expressly provides otherwise,” said Caparas. 

“In other words, what Section 5 of RA 94016 allows, Section 16 of RA 10071 disallows. In this sense, and in view of the clear statutory conflict, the arguments of the PAO (that the benefits under Section 16, RA 10071 may be retroactively applied to them) and of the DBM Legal Service (that the prohibition in the same provision overturns Section 5, RA 9406) both have basis,” he added. 

In their petition, the PAO retirees accused Abad and the DBM of neglect of duty, saying PAO lawyers should receive the same benefits given to public prosecutors. (READ: PAO retirees: ‘We’re not second-class lawyers, citizens’

Abad said that the DBM recognizes the “invaluable contribution of PAO lawyers in ensuring the rule of law, truth and social justice as public defenders.” 

According to Abad, his department is not withholding the benefits of PAO retirees. 

He then asked the DOJ an issue to an opinion on the issue, acknowledging the conflicting interpretations of the provision of the National Prosecution Service Law. 

The PAO retirees asked the Quezon City RTC to order the respondents to pay the retirees P400,000 in exemplary damages and P400,000 in moral damages, as well as costs of the suit. 

They also sought a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction to enjoin DBM to maintain the status quo. – Rappler.com

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