Political Law

Benjamin Ligot vs Ismael Mathay

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G.R. No. L-34676 – 56 SCRA 823 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Legislative Department – Salaries of Representatives – Other Emoluments; Retirement Benefits 

Benjamin Ligot served as a member of the House of Representatives for three consecutive four-year terms covering a twelve-year span from December 30, 1957 to December 30, 1969. During his second term in office (1961-1965), Republic Act No. 4134 “fixing the salaries of constitutional officials and certain other officials of the national government” was enacted into law and took effect on July 1, 1964. The salaries of members of Congress (senators and congressmen) were increased under said Act from P7,200.00 to P32,000.00 per annum, but the Act expressly provided that said increases “shall take effect in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.”

Ligot’s term expired on December 30, 1969, so he filed a claim for retirement under Commonwealth Act No. 186, section 12 (c) as amended by Republic Act No. 4968 which provided for retirement gratuity of any official or employee, appointive or elective, with a total of at least twenty years of service, the last three years of which are continuous on the basis therein provided “in case of employees based on the highest rate received and in case of elected officials on the rates of pay as provided by law.” The House of Representatives granted his petition however, Jose Velasco, the then Congress Auditor refused to so issue certification. The Auditor General then, Ismael Mathay, also disallowed the same.

The thrust of Ligot’s appeal is that his claim for retirement gratuity computed on the basis of the increased salary of P32,000.00 per annum for members of Congress (which was not applied to him during his incumbency which ended December 30, 1969, while the Court held in Philconsa vs. Mathay that such increases would become operative only for members of Congress elected to serve therein commencing December 30, 1969) should not have been disallowed, because at the time of his retirement, the increased salary for members of Congress “as provided by law” (under Republic Act 4134) was already P32,000.00 per annum.

ISSUE: Whether or not Ligot is entitled to such retirement benefit.

HELD: No. To allow Ligot a retirement gratuity computed on the basis of P32,000.00 per annum would be a subtle way of increasing his compensation during his term of office and of achieving indirectly what he could not obtain directly. Ligot’s claim cannot be sustained as far as he and other members of Congress similarly situated whose term of office ended on December 30, 1969 are concerned for the simple reason that a retirement gratuity or benefit is a form of compensation within the purview of the Constitutional provision limiting their compensation and “other emoluments” to their salary as provided by law. To grant retirement gratuity to members of Congress whose terms expired on December 30, 1969 computed on the basis of an increased salary of P32,000.00 per annum (which they were prohibited by the Constitution from receiving during their term of office) would be to pay them prohibited emoluments which in effect increase the salary beyond that which they were permitted by the Constitution to receive during their incumbency. As stressed by the Auditor-General in his decision in the similar case of Ligot’s colleague, ex-Congressman Melanio Singson, “Such a scheme would contravene the Constitution for it would lead to the same prohibited result by enabling administrative authorities to do indirectly what cannot be done directly.”

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