PNP to Congress: Proposed Lorenzana reform bill should follow Constitution

February 12, 2019


(Conclusion)

THE furor triggered by the so-called Lorenzana Bill regarding a new separation, retirement and pension bill for members of the country’s uniformed services, the Philippine National Police included, has prompted a number of recommendations to both Houses of Congress by the PNP leadership headed by Director General Oscar D. Albayalde, the Journal Group learned.

The recommendations are all aimed at ensuring that the proposed legislative measure would follow the Constitution and well-entrenched public policies specifically the prospective application of laws and keeping in mind the need to protect the vested rights of police personnel who have rendered faithful and efficient service to the country

In his letter to Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,  Gen. Albayalde strongly recommended to both Congress leaders the following:

First, “the compulsory retirement age of 56 years old should be retained, for active uniformed personnel who are already within the police service at the time of the effectivity of the law, should the bill be enacted.”

Second, he said that ‘Nevertheless, with respect to new entrants who shall join the PNP after the effectivity of the law, the proposal to increase their compulsory retirement age to 60 years old, with at least twenty (20) accumulated years of active service, should be judiciously considered especially since the average lifespan among Filipinos, for both males and females is 68.5 years old.”

Third, Gen. Albayalde said that “by reason of non-diminution of benefits, the PNP strongly recommends that, for active uniformed personnel who are already within the police service at the time of the effectivity of the law, and who will compulsorily retire under the Bill at  56 years old, their retirement grade should be one rank higher.”

Fourth, the PNP chief likewise said “the legislative reforms to be introduced by the bill should not render nugatory the liberality accorded to retirement laws in our jurisdiction, so as to render illusory the objectives of these social legislation.

He said that the Supreme Court has expounded time and time again that: “Retirement laws are social legislation. In general, retirement laws provide security to the elderly who have given their prime years in employment in government. These laws ensure the welfare of individuals who are approaching their twilight years and have limited opportunities for productive employment that give them a steady income stream.”

“Retirement laws, in particular, are liberally construed in favor of the retiree because their objective is to provide for the retiree’s sustenance and hopefully, even comfort, when he no longer has the capability to earn a livelihood. The liberal approach aims to achieve the humanitarian purposes of the law in order that inefficiency, security and well-being of government employees may be enhanced,” the PNP chief also explained.

Finally, Gen. Albayalde, invoking the public policy on liberal approach towards social legislation strongly recommended in behalf of the PNP that: “monetization of all the total leave credits, upon retirement should be retained, instead of limiting the number of leave credits that would be allowable for monetization to 300. As the Supreme Court explained in Borromeo vs CS and Secretary DBM,” he said:

“xxx, commutation of leave credits, more commonly known as terminal leave, is applied for by an officer or employee who retires, resigns or is separated from the service through no fault of his own. (Manual on Leave Administration Course for Effectiveness published by the Civil Service Commission, pages 16-17). In the exercise of sound personnel policy, the Government encourages unused leaves to be accumulated. The Government recognizes that for most public servants, retirement pay is always less than generous if not meager and scrimpy. A modest nest egg which the senior citizen may look forward to is thus provided. Terminal leave payments are given not only at the same time but also for the same policy considerations governing retirement benefits.

Xxx the terminal leave pay, which is the cash value of the accumulated leave credits, xxx is an accumulation of credits intended for old age or separation from the service.”

Gen. Albayalde said  the ‘grant of pension after 36 months from retirement should be retained instead of making the retiree wait until he reaches the age of 60 years old. “ Lastly, he said the existing computation of lump sum equivalent to 36 months instead of 18 months only, should be retained.’

The measure proposed by Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana has sparked debates among active and retired members of the police force who feel they would be affected by the proposal once it is passed into law. Thus, officials have sought a study on what will be the difference between their current and future pension and retirement pays once the measure is approved.

The gist of the matter is what will be the total effect in the future of the Lorenzana proposal to active and retired police officers and men, majority of them having fully dedicated the most part of their lives to service the government and the public.

“We all want the law to be prospective, hindi dapat paatras because this will affect everybody,” one senior PNP official said. He also brushed off rumors that around 16,000 police officers and men have signified their intention to retire early as a result of the Lorenzana proposal.

“There’s no truth to that. That’s fake news. What we’re processing are regular retirement applications  which is natural every month, not 16,000 retirement applications,” he said.

Gen. Albayalde, the Journal Group learned, has written Senate President Sotto and House Speaker Macapagal-Arroyo to explain the PNP position on the matter raised by Sec. Lorenzana last November 22 when he requested the House of Representatives to support a proposed Unified Military and Uniformed Services Personnel (MUP) Separation, Retirement and Pension Bill crafted by an inter-agency Technical Working Group led by the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Treasury.

“The PNP acknowledges the need to address the ballooning funding requirements needed to support payments for the separation, retirement and pension of MUP. As such, the PNP supports the thrust of the administration to introduce reforms that will ensure a sustainable MUP separation, retirement and pension system,” said Gen. Albayalde in his letter.

“However, it is the position of the PNP that the proposed reforms under the Bill should not be contrary to the Constitution and well-entrenched public policies, such as the prospective application of laws; non-diminution of existing benefits by reason of new laws; and the liberal approach towards social legislation,” Gen. Albayalde told the two top lawmakers.