BAGUIO CITY – The City Legal Office opined that there should be no deductions shall be made from the retirement pay of local government employees pursuant to existing laws, rules, regulations and jurisprudence.
City Legal Officer Melchor Carlos Rabanes cited that the matter has been upheld in the case of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) versus the Commission on Audit (COA) wherein the issue raised before the Supreme Court is whether COA disallowances could be legally deducted from retirement benefits on the ground that these were monetary liabilities of the retirees to the GSIS.
Rabanes qhoted the SC ruling which stated “It is clear from the above provision that COA disallowances cannot be deducted from benefits from Republic Act 8291, as the same are explicitely made exempt by law from such deductions. Retirement benefits cannot be diminished by COA disallowances in view of the clear mandate of the foregoing provision. It is a basic rule in statutory construction that if a statute is clear, clean and free from ambiguity, it must be given its literal meaning and applied without any interpretation. This is what is known as plain-meaning rule or verbal egis. Accordingly, the GSIS interpretation of Section 39 that COA disallowances have become monetary liabilities of respondents to the GSIS and therefore fall under the exemption stated in the law is wrong. No interpretation of the said provision is necessary given the clear language of the statue. A meaning that does not appear nor is intended or reflected in the very language of the statute cannot be placed therein by construction.”
Moreover, the SC ruled ‘if we are to accept the GSIS interpretation, then it would be unnecessary to single out COA disallowances as among those from which benefits under RA 8291 are exempt. In such a case, the inclusion of the COA disallowances in the enumeration of exemptions would be a mere surplasage since the GSIS could simply consider COA disallowances as monetary liabilities in its favour. Such a construction would empower the GSIS to withdraw, at its option, an exemption expressly granted by law. This could not have been the intention of the statute.”
Rabanes added the SC in the similar case stated “while the GSIS cannot directly proceed against respondents’ benefits, it can nonetheless seek restoration of the amounts by means of proper court action for its recovery. Respondents themselves submit that this should be the case, although any judgement rendered therein cannot be enforced against retirement benefits due to the exemption provided in Section 31 of RA 8291. However, there is no prohibition against enforcing a final monetary judgement against respondents other assets and properties. This is only fair and consistent with basic principles of due process.”
Rabanes asserted the law mandates that the terminal leave benefits of retirees shall be immediately released despite the pendency of an administrative case against the retiring employee and with more reason that the terminal leave benefits of the employee cannot be withheld for COA disallowances that have not yet become final and executor.
The legal officer declined from making a categorical statement as to what course of action should the City Accountant take under the premises and instead allow him the freedom to make up his mind as they respect his discretionary power./By Dexter A. See