Legarda welcomes Senate approval on second reading of Senate Bill 1762

May 25, 2018

Sen. Loren Legarda, chairwoman of the powerful Senate finance committee, has welcomed the approval by the Senate on second reading of a bill 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 measure, Senate Bill 1762, 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 (Republic Act 6770),” Legarda explained.

The Ombudsman Act provides that the Ombudsman and his /her deputies shall have the same rank, salary and privileges of chairman and members of constitutional commissions such as the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Civil Service Commission (CSC).

Legarda, coauthor and cosponsor of the bill, said she has been told that there is an alarming departure of Ombudsman lawyers and investigators.

The Office of Ombudsman has continually invested large sums of money in training its young lawyers and technical officials to hone their investigative or prosecutorial skills, she pointed out.

‘’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,’’ she said.

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 percent 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 Philippine 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,’’ she said.

“This bill, once enacted into law, will hopefully realize 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 explained.

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 started today and will be open to the public from May 26 to November 25, 2018 at the Artiglierie, Arsenale in Venice.

Source: Manila Bulletin