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SENATE OKS BENEFITS OF DECEASED PROSECUTORS BILL

The Senate passed on third and final reading a measure granting benefits to the surviving legitimate spouse and dependent children of deceased retired members of the National Prosecution Service (NPS).

With 22 unanimous votes of senators physically and virtually present, Senate Bill No. (SBN) 2373, or An Act Granting Survivorship Benefits to the Surviving Legitimate Spouse and Dependent Children of a Deceased Retired Member of the National Prosecution Service, was approved.

Senator Dick Gordon, who chairs the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, steered the passage of the measure in recognition of the important role of the prosecutors in the country’s criminal system amid risks to their safety and families.

“This measure recognizes the courage of our prosecutors who in the faithful performance of their duties as members of the court face serious threats and risks to their lives and that of their families,” Gordon said.

“Dapat ipakita natin na tayo ay nasa likod nila.”

“Araw-araw po, mayroon tayong prosecuting officers na kung minsan, tinatakot, bina-bribe. Dapat ipakita natin na tayo ay nasa likod nila. Ang sistema ng katarungan natin ay dapat maipagtanggol at maalagaan natin lahat, hindi lang ang mga huwes, kundi maging ang prosecution officials,” the veteran legislator added.

Principally authored by Senator Sonny Angara, SBN 2373 is also co-authored by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Majority Leader Migz Zubiri, Senators Manny Pacquiao, Bong Go, Win Gatchalian, Nancy Binay, Joel Villanueva, Panfilo Lacson and Gordon.

Gordon said SBN 2373, contained in Committee Report No. 296, recognizes the sacrifices made by the prosecutors who play a very important role in the country’s criminal justice system by risking their personal safety and that of their families.

According to human rights groups, at least 110 lawyers, judges, and prosecutors have been killed in the country from 1977 to 2021, more than half of which have occurred under the present administration.

At present, the government provides survivorship benefits to officials and employees of the Office of the Ombudsman, members of the Judiciary, and other government officials.

The retirement benefits given to prosecutors are essentially similar to the retirement assistance of the Judiciary, except for the survivorship benefits.

Angara, for his part, said the proposed bill protects the welfare of the surviving spouse and qualified heirs of the deceased prosecutors to cushion them against the adverse economic effects of unexpected deaths, especially in view of the series of unfortunate and untoward incidents that have exposed government prosecutors to “risks and perils to life”.

“The ‘risks and perils to life’ faced by prosecutors should be counterbalanced by a modest grant or entitlement.”

“The ‘risks and perils to life’ faced by prosecutors should be counterbalanced by a modest grant or entitlement such as survivorship benefit. Indeed, the grant of survivorship benefit is a fitting way to give appreciation to the deserving men and women in the NPS who dedicated their lives for public service and who devoted their minds and talents in order to be instruments in the dispensation of justice in the country,” the veteran legislator said.

“Prosecutors are saddled with heavy caseloads and on top of this they face constant risks to life because of the nature of their work. The grant of survivorship benefits to the members of the NPS is but a small gesture of our appreciation of the work that they are doing in the service of the country,” the seasoned lawmaker added.

SBN 2373 provides that in case of death of a retired member of the NPS, the surviving legitimate spouse and dependent children of the deceased prosecutor will be entitled to receive all the retirement benefits that he or she was already receiving.

In case of death of a NPS member who is already eligible to retire, the same survivorship benefits would also be provided to the surviving legitimate spouse and dependent children.

As defined in the bill, “dependent” refers to the “legitimate, illegitimate, or legally adopted child who is chiefly dependent on the said deceased member of the NPS if said dependent is not more than 21 years of age, unmarried and not gainfully employed or if such dependent, regardless of age, is incapable of self-support because of mental or physical defect or condition.”

Bill also provides that the surviving legitimate spouse “shall continue to receive such retirement benefits during his or her lifetime until he or she remarries, and that the surviving spouse and dependent children shall equally share the retirement benefits.

“(The) funds for the initial implementation of this Act shall be taken out from the current appropriations for the retirement of members of the NPS; thereafter, such sum as may be necessary for the continued implementation hereof shall be included in the Annual General Appropriations Act,” the bill stated.

The bill also provides for a retroactive application to include members of the NPS who died one year prior to the effectivity of the law.

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