Case Digest: Fetalino & Calderon v. COMELEC

G.R. No. 191890: December 4, 2012

EVALYN I. FETALINO and AMADO M. CALDERON, Petitioners, MANUEL A. BARCELONA, JR., Petitioner-Intervenor, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, Respondent.


FACTS:

President Fidel V. Ramos extended an interim appointment to petitioners Evalyn Fetalino (Fetalino) and Amado Calderon (Calderon) as Comelec Commissioners, each for a term of seven (7) years. Congress, however, adjourned before the Commission on Appointments (CA) could act on their appointments. The constitutional ban on presidential appointments later took effect and Fetalino and Calderon were no longer re-appointed. Thus, Fetalino and Calderon merely served as Comelec Commissioners for more than four months.

Subsequently, Fetalino and Calderon applied for their retirement benefits and monthly pension with the Comelec, pursuant to R.A. No. 1568. The Comelec initially approved the claims pursuant to its resolution. However, in its subsequent resolution, the Comelec, on the basis of its Law Departments study, completely disapproved the Fetalino and Calderons claim, stating that one whose ad interim appointment expires cannot be said to have completed his term of office so as to fall under the provisions of Section 1 of RA 1568 that would entitle him to a lump sum benefit of five years salary. Petitioner-intervenor Manuel A. Barcelona, Jr. (Barcelona) later joined the petitioners in questioning the assailed subsequent resolution.

ISSUES:

A. Whether or not an ad interim appointment qualifies as retirement under the law and entitles them to the full five-year lump sum gratuity;

B. Whether or not the resolution that initially granted the five-year lump sum gratuity is already final and executory;

C. Whether or not Fetalino and Calderon acquired a vested right over the full retirement benefits provided by RA No. 1568.


HELD: The petition lacks merit.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: Term of Office


First Issue: Fetalino, Calderon and Barcelona are not entitled to the lump sum gratuity under Section 1 of R.A. No. 1568, as amended.

The Court emphasized that the right to retirement benefits accrues only when two conditions are met: first, when the conditions imposed by the applicable law in this case, R.A. No. 1568 are fulfilled; and second, when an actual retirement takes place. The Court has repeatedly emphasized that retirement entails compliance with certain age and service requirements specified by law and jurisprudence, and takes effect by operation of law.

Section 1 of R.A. No. 1568 allows the grant of retirement benefits to the Chairman or any Member of the Comelec who has retired from the service after having completed his term of office. Fetalino, Calderon and Barcelona obviously did not retire under R.A. No. 1568, as amended, since they never completed the full seven-year term of office. While the Court characterized an ad interim appointment in Matibag v. Benipayo as a permanent appointment that takes effect immediately and can no longer be withdrawn by the President once the appointee has qualified into office, the Court have also positively ruled in that case that an ad interim appointment that has lapsed by inaction of the Commission on Appointments does not constitute a term of office.

Second Issue: The Comelec did not violate the rule on finality of judgments.

Section 13, Rule 18 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure reads: In ordinary actions, special proceedings, provisional remedies and special reliefs a decision or resolution of the Commission en banc shall become final and executory after thirty (30) days from its promulgation.

A simple reading of this provision shows that it only applies to ordinary actions, special proceedings, provisional remedies and special reliefs. Thus, it is clear that the proceedings that precipitated the issuance of the assailed resolution do not fall within the coverage of the actions and proceedings under Section 13, Rule 18 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure. Thus, the Comelec did not violate its own rule on finality of judgments.

Third Issue: No vested rights over retirement benefits.

Retirement benefits granted to Fetalino, Calderon and Barcelona under Section 1 of R.A. No. 1568 are purely gratuitous in nature; thus, they have no vested right over these benefits. Retirement benefits as provided under R.A. No. 1568 must be distinguished from a pension which is a form of deferred compensation for services performed; in a pension, employee participation is mandatory, thus, employees acquire contractual or vested rights over the pension as part of their compensation.

DENIED

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