WARD, Ninfa N.
Re: Terminal Leave Benefits
RESOLUTION NO. 98-2449
Ninfa N. Ward, former Director IV, Legal Service, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), requests the intercession of the commission effect the release of her terminal leave benefits in connection with her retirement. The material allegations of Ward are as follows:
"This is to respectfully request your kind office to advise Secretary Lina B. Laigo of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, to release my terminal leave benefits, which per Ombudsman Memorandum Circular does not need any Ombudsman clearance.
"In a follow-up made with the DSWD, I was informed that inspite of the said Ombudsman Circular, the Department requested an "opinion" from your office as to whether they will release my terminal leave benefits. Whether it is their "good intention" or simply to use other government agencies in their vindictive drive against me for filling graft cases against them, as what they did with their letter to the Department of Budget and Management, it is hoped that your good office will not be used by the DSWD for such purpose.
"It maybe mentioned that such allegations are not imaginary but factual considering that the DSWD released ALL benefits to former Undersecretary MILAGROS LLANES inspite of her having a criminal case (NO. 20380) with the Sandiganbayan and with the PCAGC, and even hired her as Consultant, there could be NO reason why I should not get the benefits at least the terminal leave due me after forty (4) years in the government service. x x x"
When asked to comment, former DSWD Secretary Lina Laigo stated as follows:
x x x
"Admittedly, the money value of Atty. Wards accrued leave credits has not yet been paid to her for the reason that she has pending administrative cases before the Office of the Ombudsman and the Presidential Commission Against Graft and Corruption (PCAGG). While the penalty of dismissal can no longer be imposed her (sic) having retired from the service, Atty. Ward, if found guilty, may suffer the accessory penalty of forfeiture of leave credits and retirement benefits since her cases are grave offenses. x x x.
"We understand that the clearance from the Ombudsman is necessary for payment of terminal leave benefits. However, as head of the Department imbued with the duty to protect the interest of the government, I have exercised my discretion not to release Atty. Wards terminal leave and retirement benefits until the cases against her are terminated in her favor. To do otherwise would render the on-going administrative investigations moot and academic or any decision adverse to her an empty or hollow penalty, for it would be very difficult for the government to recover the benefits once these are released before the termination of her cases."
x x x
In a letter to Ward dated May 20, 1998, the Commission informed her about the aforecited comment of former Secretary Laigo. Ward, however, expressed dissatisfaction over the same and requested that a positive action be taken by the Commission on the matter.
The issue to be resolved in the instant case is whether or not terminal leave benefits of the retired employee may be withheld pending resolution of the administrative charges against her.
Former Secretary Laigo claims that she exercised her discretion when she withheld the release of Wards terminal leave benefits so as not to render the pending administrative proceedings against the latter moot and academic.
Applicable to the present issue is Ombudsman Memorandum Circular No. 9, s. 1994 re: Payment of Accrued Leave Credits/Terminal Leave Pay, pertinent portions of which provide as follows:
"x x x A public official or employee who is separated from service may not be given retirement benefits if he is still facing criminal or administrative charges. The obvious purpose of the law is to forestall the possibility of a public official or employee with pending case to be granted retirement benefits which may be declared forfeited in the decision in the case filed against him which was still pending at the time of his separation from the service. Retirement benefits, however, do not include accrued leave credits which are considered earned salaries of the official or employee concerned. An Ombudsman clearance is, therefore, required only for payment of retirement benefits.
"Accordingly, no Ombudsman clearance is necessary for the payment of the money value of the accrued leave credits (terminal leave pay) of a separated official or employee, subject only to whatever claims paying agency may have against the same." (Emphasis supplied)
In line with the aforecited circular, the Commission rendered an Opinion dated April 12, 1996 (ROXAS, Manuel), as follows:
"We wish to point out, however, that payment of retirement benefits shall be made only after and accountabilities. In regard the involvement of Undersecretary Roxas in financial anomalies at DOH, he shall only he considered to a have a pending administrative case after he is formally charged or a prima facie case has been established
Finally, the tern retirement benefits does not include commutation of accrued leave credits, hence the latter may be paid even if clearance has not been secured." (Emphasis supplied)
While it may be true that Ward was found guilty of administrative offenses in a Decision dated march 16, 1998 of the Office of the President in OP Case No. 98-08280 entitled Teodulo Romo vs. Atty. Ninfa N. Ward, for which she was imposed the penalty of one (1) year suspension, the same is not a valid ground to withhold her accrued leave credits/terminal leave benefits. Under Section 12, Rule 14 of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987, the penalty of suspension from the service shall carry with it the accessory penalty to the period of suspension. As such, forfeiture of leave credits/terminal leave benefits of the suspended employee is not an accessory penalty.
It should be noted that accrued leave credits (terminal leave benefits) are considered as earned salaries of the official or employee concerned. Thus, an employee shall be entitled to the same as a matter of course despite the pendency of an administrative case against her.
In the present case, it is evident that Ward is entitled to her terminal leave benefits despite the pendency of administrative cases against her. Hence, she should pay the same, subject only to whatever claims the paying agency may have against her.
WHEREFORE, the Commission hereby rules that Atty. Ninfa Ward is entitled to the payment of her terminal leave benefits by the DSWD despite the pendency of the administrative cases against her, without prejudice, however, to whatever monetary claims the DSWD have against her.
Quezon City, September 23, 1998
CORAZON ALMA G. DE LEON
THELMA P. GAMINDE
JOSE F. ERESTAIN, JR.
ARIEL G. RONQUILLO