Political Law

Philippine Constitution Association, Inc. vs Pedro Gimenez

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G.R. No. L-23326 – 15 SCRA 479 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Legislative Department – Salaries of the Members of Congress – Other Emolument

Philippine Constitution Association, Inc. (PHILCONSA) assails the validity of Republic Act No. 3836 insofar as the same allows retirement gratuity and commutation of vacation and sick leave to Senators and Representatives. PHILCONSA now seeks to enjoin Pedro Gimenez, the Auditor General, from disbursing funds therefor.

According to PHILCONSA, the provision on retirement gratuity is an attempt to circumvent the Constitutional ban on increase of salaries of the members of Congress during their term of office, contrary to the provisions of Section 14, Article VI of the Constitution. The same provision constitutes “selfish class legislation” because it allows members and officers of Congress to retire after twelve (12) years of service and gives them a gratuity equivalent to one year salary for every four years of service, which is not refundable in case of reinstatement or re-election of the retiree, while all other officers and employees of the government can retire only after at least twenty (20) years of service and are given a gratuity which is only equivalent to one month salary for every year of service, which, in any case, cannot exceed 24 months. The provision on vacation and sick leave, commutable at the highest rate received, insofar as members of Congress are concerned, is another attempt of the legislator to further increase their compensation in violation of the Constitution.

The Solicitor General, arguing for Congress, averred that the grant of retirement or pension benefits under Republic Act No. 3836 to the officers does not constitute “forbidden compensation” within the meaning of Section 14 of Article VI of the Philippine Constitution. The law in question does not constitute class legislation. The payment of commutable vacation and sick leave benefits under the said Act is merely “in the nature of a basis for computing the gratuity due each retiring member” and, therefore, is not an indirect scheme to increase their salary.

ISSUE: Whether or not RA 3836 is constitutional.

HELD: No, the said law is unconstitutional. Section 14, Article VI, of the Constitution, provides:

The Senators and the Members of the House of Representatives shall, unless otherwise provided by law, receive an annual compensation of seven thousand two hundred pesos each, including per diems and other emoluments or allowances, and exclusive only of travelling expenses to and from their respective district in the case of Members of the House of Representatives and to and from their places of residence in the case of Senators, when attending sessions of the Congress. No increase in said compensation shall take effect until after the expiration of the full term of all the Members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives approving such increase. Until otherwise provided by law, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall each receive an annual compensation of sixteen thousand pesos.

When the Constitutional Convention first determined the compensation for the Members of Congress, the amount fixed by it was only P5,000.00 per annum but it embodies a special proviso which reads as follows:

No increase in said compensation shall take effect until after the expiration of the full term of all the members of the National Assembly elected subsequent to approval of such increase.

In other words, under the original constitutional provision regarding the power of the National Assembly to increase the salaries of its members, no increase would take effect until after the expiration of the full term of the members of the Assembly elected subsequent to the approval of such increase.

The Constitutional provision in the aforementioned Section 14, Article VI, includes in the term compensation “other emoluments”.

“Emolument” is “the profit arising from office or employment; that which is received as compensation for services or which is annexed to the possession of an office, as salary, fees and perquisites.”

It is evident that retirement benefit is a form or another species of emolument, because it is a part of compensation for services of one possessing any office.

RA 3836 provides for an increase in the emoluments of Senators and Members of the House of Representatives, to take effect upon the approval of said Act, which was on June 22, 1963. Retirement benefits were immediately available thereunder, without awaiting the expiration of the full term of all the Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives approving such increase. Such provision clearly runs counter to the prohibition in Article VI, Section 14 of the Constitution. RA 3836 is hereby declared unconstitutional by the SC.

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