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Legarda welcomes Senate approval on Second Reading of Ombudsman Retirement Bill

May 24, 2018

Venice, Italy —  Senator Loren Legarda welcomes the approval on Second Reading of Senate Bill No. 1762 which seeks to grant Ombudsman lawyers and prosecutors a comparable set of retirement benefits similarly granted by law to their counterparts in the judiciary and the prosecution service of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The bill approved yesterday by the Senate likewise includes in its coverage senior technical officials such as investigators and graft prevention officers, falling within the Salary Grade (SG) bracket from SG26 to SG29.

“At present, only the Ombudsman, the Deputies and the Special Prosecutor enjoy retirement benefits upon completion of their respective terms pursuant to the Constitution and the Ombudsman Act of 1989 (R.A. No. 6770),” Legarda explained, “which law specially provides that the Ombudsman and his Deputies shall have the same rank, salary and privileges of Chairman and Members of the Constitutional Commissions, i.e., the COMELEC, the COA and the CSC.”

Legarda, co-author and co-sponsor of Senate Bill No. 1762, was informed that there is an alarming diaspora of Ombudsman lawyers and investigators.  The Ombudsman has continually invested large sums of money in training its young lawyers and technical officials to hone their investigative or prosecutorial skills. Yet, these Ombudsman lawyers and technical officials eventually leave the office after a few years in order to find employment in the private sector or other government agencies which provide better compensation and retirement benefits.

Statistical data show that a total of 180 lawyers and senior technical officials with salary grades from SG-26 to SG-29 (“senior officials”) were newly hired by the Ombudsman from 2011 to the present.  Within the same period, however, a total of 178 such senior officials were separated from the Office for various reasons.  Almost 78% of those who left the Office had either resigned or transferred, more than half of whom had opted to transfer to other government offices such as the National Prosecution Services or even the lower courts.

Legarda noted that with graft and corruption as one of the major problems in our society, the Ombudsman’s task requires support of Congress and the whole society.  Its mandate cannot be underestimated, and the importance of its task compromised, saying that “there is thus the pressing need to hire and retain competent, committed, courageous and highly-qualified Ombudsman officials and employees.”

“This bill, once enacted into law, will hopefully realise government efforts to cure this unintended inequity among our legal and technical staff who are discharging relatively the same functions, but are unfortunately not enjoying the same retirement benefits.  Our ultimate goal should be to entice the best and the brightest lawyers to join and, most importantly, remain with the Office of the Ombudsman, if we are to continue our fight against corruption,” Legarda said.

Legarda is now in Venice, Italy for the Vernissage of the Philippine Pavilion in the 16th Architecture Biennale, a joint project of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Senator’s Office.  The Vernissage will be held on May 24 and will be open to the public from May 26 to November 25, 2018 at the Artiglierie, Arsenale in Venice.