MANILA - The Court of Appeals has junked a petition filed by the Department of Budget and Management which sought to block the release of P3.9-billion worth of pension differentials to retirees of the Integrated National Police (INP).
The INP was the municipal police force for cities and large towns in the country before it merged with the Philippine Constabulary in 1991 to form the current Philippine National Police.
In an 8-page decision dated December 12, 2018 but released to the media only on Tuesday, the CA Special Fourteenth Division said the PNP and the DBM cannot be permitted to further delay or thwart the execution of a final and executory judgment against them for the release of the retirement benefits differentials to INP retirees.
“Considering the INP retirees’ advanced years, they can hardly afford another protracted proceeding and the courts should frown upon any attempt to deprive them of the fruits of the final and executory verdict,” the ruling said.
WHAT WENT BEFORE
The case stemmed from the enactment of a law in 1998 which increased the pension benefits given to PNP retirees but which excluded INP retirees from its coverage.
Aggrieved by their exclusion, a group of INP retirees known as the Manila’s Finest Retirees’ Association, Inc. (MFRAI) asked a Manila trial court in 2002 to declare that they were entitled to the same benefits as PNP retirees.
The trial court ruled in favor of MFRAI in 2003 which was affirmed by the CA and the Supreme Court as early as 2007.
When MFRAI moved to have the court judgment executed however, the DBM opposed the motion claiming that government funds may not be seized under a writ of execution or garnishment.
The trial court sided with MFRAI and issued a writ of execution saying the DBM could no longer rely on immunity of public funds from seizure or garnishment as a defense because the 2014 General Appropriations Act had already provided for public funds to pay for the money judgment against the government.
The DBM went to the CA which again sided with MRFAI.
When asked to fully implement the decision, the trial court in July 2017 issued a notice of garnishment, which the DBM and the PNP again questioned before the CA, insisting this time that the GSIS should submit a list of verified claimants.
In the CA decision penned by Fourteenth Division Chair Associate Justice Mario Lopez, the Court said that just as a losing party has the right to file an appeal, the winning party also has the right to enjoy the finality of the resolution of the case through the execution and satisfaction of judgment.
The CA noted that the trial court decision in favor of MRFAI had been affirmed by the SC no less.
“The Supreme Court even underscored the retroactive application of the adjusted retirement benefits to those who have retired prior to the effectivity of R.A. No. 6975,” it said, referring to the law which created the PNP in 1991.
“Moreover, the Congress enacted R.A. No. 10633 and appropriated public funds to satisfy the money judgment provided in the decision of the Supreme Court,” it added.
The Court rejected the DBM’s and PNP’s insistence on the need for the submission of a list of verified claimants from the GSIS, explaining that the GSIS had no participation in determining the retirees eligible for pension differential.
“[T]he PNP submitted the final computation as to how much retirement benefits the INP retirees are entitled to receive. The amounts indicated are presumed correct since the PNP has not made any modification,” it said.
“At any rate, the responsibility to evaluate the list of retirees lies with the PNP as their employer,” it added.
Of the P3.9-billion pension differential, the PNP said in June 2016 that the DBM had released at least P900 million in pension differentials to almost 800 INP retirees.