Palace cuts SC justices’ retirement pay in half; judges boo Abad

Published by rudy Date posted on March 19, 2011

President Aquino and his allies’ vindictiveness toward the high court justices not appointed by him has spread into slashing even their retirement pay.

Malacañang’s proposal to cut in half P1.3 million a Supreme Court (SC) justice receives when he steps down is the latest flashpoint in the tribunal’s high profile standoff between magistrates identified with Malacanang and those supposedly allied with the camp of former President Gloria Arroyo.

A source in the high court said the resolution has been issued but has since been withdrawn and would have cut to P650,000 the amount to be received by outgoing magistrates.

In the late President Cory Aquino’s time, and on a “revolving door” policy in the matter of chief justices’ appointments, the retirement pay of an SC justice was raised to P1 million. That was some 25 years ago. Cutting the retirement of the retiring SC justice would reduce the already measly retirement pay to peanuts, considering how little the peso buys these days.

The sum is among the perks received by the magistrate and is usually used to fund activities to honor the outgoing justice.

“Right now it’s unclear whether the resolution is in effect or not,” the source added.

The source pointed out that the resolution would immediately affect

Senior Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales who wil reach the retirement age of 70 years on June 19.

Carpio-Morales along with her relative, another senior magistrate, Antonio Carpio and Aquino’s appointee Lourdes Sereno are perceived to be a pro-Malacañang minority in the high court in its stand off with the high court headed by Chief Justice Renato Corona, an appointee of Arroyo.

Thus far, their voting pattern tends to follow the Palace line.

Court administrator and spokesman Jose Midas Marquez, when reached by the Tribune for confirmation on this story, said he is not aware of any Palace proposal to slash the retirement pay, but said he will check it out.

Meanwhile, judges in the country called off plans to protest the cut in the judiciary’s proposed budget for this year after the Palace agreed to make current their salaries and allowances.

Officials and members of the Philippine Judges Association (PJA), Philippine Trial Judge League (PTJL) and Metropolitan and City Judges Association the Philippines (MCJAP) held a national assembly and voted to accept the offer of the Department of Budget andManagement (DBM).

The three groups and the DBM forged a memorandum of agreement (MoA) providing for the restoration of the full special salaries and allowances under RA 9227, payment of salary adjustment under the Salary Standardization Law and payment of special allowances distinct from basic salary.

The MoA carried a disclaimer that it was not a waiver of the judges’ right to claim the salary differential pertaining to the 20-percent increase in 2008 and 2009.

During voting at 3 p.m., 543 of the 610 judges in attendance, or 89 percent agreed to go with the MoA.

“We will no longer proceed with the protest. Our members have accepted the MoA,” PJA president and Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Antonio Eugenio Jr. said in an interview after their assembly held at the Century Park Hotel in Manila.

Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad was expected to sign the MoA, but had to attend the Palace’s emergency meeting on the Middle East crisis.

He instead sent Director Tina Rosemarie Canda as his representative.

Abad’s absence in the much-anticipated dialogue invited boos from the judges .

Canda told reporters after the meeting that the DBM stands by its interpretation that subsequent increases in salaries following the RA 9227’s full implementation in 2007 should be taken from the Special Allowance for Justices, Judges and Court personnel (SAJJ) funds. But the judges insisted that the SAJJ funds should be untouched and that their basic salaries should come from coffers of the national government.

Eugenio revealed that some 50 judges still believed that Palace’s action was “mere palliative” and that they still have to pursue their demands for their accumulated salary increases and benefits under the SAJJ law that had been unpaid over the past four years.

The SC included this claim of judges in the P27.1-billionproposed budget for 2011. But the Congress and Aquino cut this proposed budget by almost half and approved only P14.65 billion despite lobbying from the SC. –Benjamin B. Pulta, Daily Tribune

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