House to extend more benefits to judges

Posted Nov 12, 2009 by Antonio Figueroa
MANILA - A proposed law that grants additional retirement, survivorship and other benefits to members of the judiciary may soon be ratified by the House of Representatives as a way of promoting equity and maintaining competence in the judicial system.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
File photo
The bicameral report on House Bill 6820, a consolidation of nine original and separate bills, has already been transmitted to the Committee on Rules for plenary ratification.
Speaker Prospero C. Nograles, one of the co-authors of the bill, said this piece of legislation “is crucial in encouraging efficiency in the Judiciary,” adding that an early ratification of the proposed law by both the Senate and the House will ensure its approval by the President before Congress makes its yearend recess next month.
If enacted, the bill will amend Republic Act No. 902 which, according to rules committee chairman Mateo Defensor, “does not cover judges of the first and second level courts whose duties and functions are equally important in the dispensation and administration of justice.”
Nograles pointed out three important aspects that the bill will bring, namely: (1) first and second level courts will be placed on equal footing with the justices of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and other similar courts of justice, (2) the problem on vacancy of positions and high turn-over of judges in trial courts can be addressed, and (3) the highest remuneration and benefits may be the key to attracting brilliant lawyers to join and serve in the judiciary.
Under the bill, which shall soon be reconciled with Senate Bill 1620, the new privileges will cover the justices of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, the Court of Tax Appeals, or judges of the Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court, Shari'a District Court, Shari'a Circuit Court, or any other court established after the bill has been enacted into law.
Covered by the proposed law are judges, after rendering at least 15 years of service in the Judiciary or in any other branch of government, or both, who retire after reaching the compulsory retirement age of 70 years, or who resign by reason of incapacity to discharge the duties of their office as certified by the Supreme Court.
Those covered will receive retirement pension, plus the highest monthly computation for transport, representation and other allowances that include personal and economic relief allowance, and additional stipend.
Likewise, judges will receive non-wage benefits in the form of education scholarship (free tuition fee in a state university or college) for one child, provided that such grant will cover only one bachelor's degree.
It also provides that when the covered members of the Judiciary have attained the age of 60 years and have rendered at least 15 years of service in government, the last three of which having been continuously rendered in the judiciary, they shall likewise be entitled to retire and receive a pro-rata monthly pension.
The pro-rata computation refers to the number of years in government or in the judiciary, which is divided by 15 years times the basic pay plus the highest monthly aggregate transport, representation and other allowances.
The measure, though, provides that no retiring justice or judge or their surviving spouses receiving benefit under the proposed Act can appear as counsel before any court in any civil case wherein the government or its instrumentality is the adverse party, or in criminal cases where an employee of government, active or not, is accused in a case related to his work in public office.