The House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading House Bill 6578 which provides retirement benefits and hazard allowance to officials and employees of the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB).
HB 6578 is principally authored by Reps. Ann Hofer, (2nd District, Zamboanga Sibugay) and Sherwin Tugna (Party-list Cibac).
Under the proposed “Retirement Law of the Office of the Ombudsman”, the Ombudsman shall enjoy the same retirement and other benefits as those of the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals, while the Deputies and the Special Prosecutor shall enjoy the same retirement and other benefits as those of the Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals.
All other officials and employees covered by the Act, from Salary Grade 26 to 29, shall enjoy the same retirement and other benefits as those of the Judges of the Regional Trial Courts (RTC), Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts with the same salary grades.
The bill provides for the automatic increase in the pension benefits of OMB retired officials or employees whenever there is an increase in the salary and allowance in the same position from which they retired.
It also provides for additional monthly hazard allowance not exceeding 50 percent of the basic monthly salary to officials and employees exposed to hardships, security risks and other hazards by reason of their assigned tasks and responsibilities.
Upon the death of a retired or incumbent official or employee covered by the Act, the surviving legitimate spouse and dependent children of said official or employee shall be entitled to receive on a monthly basis all the retirement benefits the deceased had been receiving or entitled to receive at the time of death under the provisions of the applicable retirement laws then in force.
Any increase after the effectivity of this Act in the salary, allowances or retirement benefits, or any upgrading of the salary grades or levels, all of the justices and judges shall apply to the corresponding OMB or employee.
Section 3 of the bill provides that when an official or employee of the OMB covered by the Act who has rendered at least 15 years of service either in the OMB or in any branch of government, or in both, retires for having attained the age of 65 years resigns by reason of incapacity to discharge the duties of the office as certified by the Ombudsman, such official or employee shall, during the residue of the official or employee’s natural life, in the manner hereafter provided, receive a retirement pension on the highest monthly salary, plus the highest monthly aggregate of transportation, living and representation allowances being received by the official or employee at the time of retirement or resignation.
Section 4 of the bill provides that while receiving the pension and benefits granted herein, no official or employee covered by this Act shall appear as counsel before any judicial or quasi-judicial agency in any civil case wherein the government or any agency, subdivision, or instrumentality thereof is an adverse party, or in any criminal case wherein any officer or employee of the government is accused of an offense committed in relation to their office, or collect any fee for appearance in any administrative proceedings to maintain an interest adverse to the government, whether national, provincial, or municipal or to any of its legally constituted officers.
The amounts necessary to implement the proposed Act shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.
Hofer said the benefits and allowances of the employees and officials of the OMB are still not comparable to those of their counterparts in other government agencies and in other anti-graft and corruption bodies in the Pacific Region.
Hofer said the OMB also suffers from a high turnover of personnel, who eventually join other government agencies or the private sector that offer better compensation and retirement benefits.