CASE DIGEST: Retirement of Judge Macarambon (A.M. No. 14061-Ret)

A.M. No. 14061-Ret : June 19, 2012 | Re: Application for Retirement of Judge Moslemen T. Macarambon under Republic Act No. 910, Present: as amended by Republic Act No. 9946. BRION, J.:

FACTS: Judge Macarambon was a judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) for a period of 18 years, 1 month and 16 days. Before reaching the optional retirement age of 60, Judge Macarambon transferred to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) having been appointed as Commissioner by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (President Arroyo). He served as COMELEC Commissioner for less than a year and was no longer re-appointed after having been bypassed thrice by the Commission on Appointments. Judge Macarambon was subsequently appointed by President Arroyo as President/CEO of the National Transmission Corporation but he resigned from the position less than a year after when he failed to receive a reappointment from President Benigno C. Aquino III.In his letter, Judge Macarambon requests that he be allowed to retire under Section 1 of RA No. 910, as amended.

Judge Macarambon asserts that Section 1 allows the payment of retirement benefits to a judge of the RTC who resigns by reason of incapacity to discharge the duties of his office. As an alternative, he appeals that he be allowed to retire under the second sentence of Section 1 considering that he has rendered a total of 18 years, 1 month and 16 days of judicial service and a total of 35 years of government service. Judge Macarabon claims that while he was short of the minimum age requirement of 60, he believes that the Courts ruling in Re: Gregorio G. Pineda is applicable to his case where the Court brushed aside such requirement and considered the retirees career which was marked with competence, integrity, and dedication to public service.

In his Memorandum, the Court Administrator disagreed with Judge Macarambon's position.

ISSUE: Whether or not a judge who voluntarily resigned from his judicial office before reaching the optional retirement age is allowed to receive retirement benefits under RA No. 910, as amended?

HELD: Resignation and retirement are two distinct concepts carrying different meanings and legal consequences in our jurisdiction. While an employee can resign at any time, retirement entails the compliance with certain age and service requirements specified by law and jurisprudence. Resignation stems from the employees own intent and volition to resign and relinquish his/her post. Retirement takes effect by operation of law. In terms of severance to ones employment, resignation absolutely cuts-off the employment relationship in general; in retirement, the employment relationship endures for the purpose of the grant of retirement benefits.

In case of retirement, a justice or judge must show compliance with the age and service requirements as provided in RA No. 910, as amended. The second sentence of Section 1 imposes the following minimum requirements for optional retirement:
(a) must have attained the age of sixty (60) years old; and 
(b) must have rendered at least fifteen (15) years service in the Government, the last three (3) of which shall have been continuously rendered in the Judiciary.
Strict compliance with the age and service requirements under the law is the rule and the grant of exception remains to be on a case to case basis. We have ruled that the Court allows seeming exceptions to these fixed rules for certain judges and justices only and whenever there are ample reasons to grant such exception.

On the other hand, resignation under RA No. 910, as amended must be "by reason of incapacity to discharge the duties of the office." In Britanico, we held that the resignation contemplated under RA No. 910, as amended must have the element of involuntariness on the part of the justice or judge. More than physical or mental disability to discharge the judicial office, the involuntariness must spring from the intent of the justice or judge who would not have parted with his/her judicial employment were it not for the presence of circumstances and/or factors beyond his/her control.

Judge Macarambon is hereby ADVISED to file an application for optional retirement under Republic Act No. 1616 with the Government Service Insurance System, subject to the submission of the requirements for retirement, and to the deduction of the retirement gratuity he received from his previous retirement, if there be any, and subject finally to the availability of funds and the usual clearance requirements.