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Monday, May 27, 2013

Marcelo B. del Pilar: Another Victim of Injustice and Philippine Bureaucracy

In the May 22, 2013 issue of a Bacolod City local daily, Visayan Daily Star, Editor Carla P. Gomez wrote;
DOJ Finally Paying Dead Prosecutor, 84 Others To Get Retirement Differentials Too
“The family of a retired government prosecutor in Negros Occidental, who had pleaded with the Department of Justice for the release of his retirement pay so he could have a heart bypass operation before he passed away, will finally be paid.”
“Marcelo B. del Pilar, 66, who retired as OIC city prosecutor of Cadiz City in Negros on July 15, 2011, succumbed to a heart attack on April 4 without getting what was due him, and what he needed to save his life, his wife, Teresa, said. The DOJ, on its website, yesterday announced that 85 DOJ prosecutors, including del Pilar, who retired since 2010 to 2012 can now claim their retirement gratuity differential.”
“His family is now entitled to receive P4,135,167.68 representing his unpaid retirement benefits, the DOJ announcement said. Teresa  del Pilar said it is sad that the money due her husband that could have saved his life, is being released only now. She said she is thankful to Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda for following up the release after being informed by the DAILY STAR of the plight of her husband in March before he died. She received a letter from Lacierda on the efforts made to help them, Teresa said.”
“DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima also sent her a letter dated April 8 after her husband had died, which she received in the last week of April, explaining to her the delay in the release of his benefits, Teresa said. She said she wept because de Lima had written only then, when her husband had written to the secretary in October 2012 yet, seeking her help and did not get an answer until the day he died. It was too late, she said.”
“Del Pilar suffered heart attacks in 2007 and 2010, and his cardiologist, Dr. Jose Joel Yap, had recommended that he undergo a heart bypass operation to prolong his life. He was hoping that with his lump sum benefit, he could afford that operation.”
“In March, Del Pilar said he had to live on money borrowed from his children after he retired, because the law states that a prosecutor cannot engage in private practice for a year after retirement. Last year, he was able to earn again from his private practice as a lawyer, but on March 16, he suffered another heart attack and was hospitalized in Bacolod.”
“He was released from the hospital on Holy Week, and we thought he was better, but he just suddenly succumbed to a heart attack,” Teresa said. She said her husband did not want government to give him money for his operation. “We wanted what was due him, so he could pay for it himself,” she said.
It is very sad that the government he served for so long failed him in his hour of need, she said. Del Pilar had retired after 36 years in government service.”
Similar item was also reported in several national newspapers in the Philippines, and GMA News filed a  report on April 18, 2013, shown below;
“DOJ Points Finger at DBM, GSIS After Ex-Employee Dies Without Getting Pension”
“The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday said it was not to blame in the case of a 66-year-old former prosecutor in Negros Occidental who died without receiving his retirement pay.”
“In a statement, Undersecretary Leah Armamento, chairperson of the Retirement Committee Technical Working Group, insisted the DOJ was "not amiss in attending" to the retirement pay application of acting Cadiz City Prosecutor Marcelo del Pilar.”
Del Pilar, who was in government service for almost four decades, died of a heart attack last April 4, after a two-year-long battle to secure his pension. According to earlier reports, 100 other prosecutors who retired in 2011 have still not received their lump sum pension.
“Del Pilar suffered heart attacks in 2007 and 2010, and was advised by his doctor to undergo a heart bypass. Without money for the operation, Del Pilar wrote to Vice President Jejomar Binay, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, and President Benigno Aquino III for his lump sum pension, but all to no avail”.
“On Thursday, Armamento said: "His situation represents an area of concern and the Department is doing everything to convince Department of Budget Management (DBM) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to release the retirement benefits of retired prosecutors." Armamento asked the DBM and the GSIS to sign a joint circular that addresses the benefits of retired prosecutors. For her part, DBM Director Tina Rose Marie Canda said her agency's request for the issuance of Special Allotment Release Order amounting to P397,384,560 has already been "resubmitted to the DBM." The release order was supposed to cover retirement gratuity for prosecutors who retired from 2010 to 2012, Canda added.”
“The joint DBM-GSIS circular was crafted pursuant to Republic Act 10071 of an Act Strengthening and Rationalizing the National Prosecution Service. Enacted on April 8, 2010, RA 10071 provides updated schemes in terms of retirement benefits for prosecutors, as provided under Section 21 of the law. “ BM, GMA News
After reading the above news item, I was overwhelmed with ambivalent feelings. On the one hand, I felt intense sorrow on the passing of Mar on April 4, 2013 without my personal knowledge since I permanently left the Philippines to join my wife in the US on March 26, 2012 .  On the other hand, I have nothing but indignation and rage on the discrimination and injustice of all government agencies involved, specifically on the Departments of Justice, Budget and Management and GSIS for their indifference and inefficiency on the cases of Atty. Del Pilar and the other 84 retired Public Prosecutors in the country.
The late Marcelo B. del Pilar was my friend and “kumpadre”, being the Christian godfather of his daughter, Kim. Mar, as we call him, was introduced to me by a common friend sometime in 1985. I thought it was a joke when he was introduced to me as Marcelo del  Pilar, a namesake of a Philippine national hero, Marcelo H. del Pilar. What is more astonishing is that Mar’s middle name is Bonifacio, a family name of another great national hero, Andres Bonifacio.  We always kidded him as providential to have national heroes as ancestors and should live up to his name to which he responded with a smile on his face. Nonetheless, we became the best of friends from then on.
Mar was a former member of the PNP in Bacolod while pursuing his law studies at the UNO-R. After passing the Bar examination, Mar requested a lateral transfer and joined the Public Defender’s Office in Bacolod City. During those times I spent almost every weekend with Mar and a small circle of friends, Eli Hilado,  John Barredo and Renato Belleza, both latter deceased already. We would spend the whole day playing scrabble between bottles of beer or going to Karaoke pubs to sing and enjoy our oldies music. Mar was a gifted musician. He can play the saxophone with intense melody and the trumpet as well. He confided to me that he was able to pursue his studies by being a member of the school’s band from high school to college. Mar definitely can well carry a tune and always becomes the “star” of our singing sessions. 
When I left to work abroad in 1987, I never missed to see Mar and his family during my annual vacation leaves in the Philippines. I always share “pasalubong” with his wife Teresa, daughters Malou and Kim and son Ryan. When I decided to go back to Bacolod in 2000 after working for more than 13 years overseas, our close friendship was rekindled and I often used to go to his residence in Barangay Pahanocoy on weekends to play scrabble or sing with his karaoke player between bottles of beer and  “kaldereta”.  
During his tenure as Prosecutor, Mar was assigned in Cadiz City. He used to drive his old and battered Volkswagen car from Bacolod to Cadiz and back home to Bacolod on weekends and holidays. Whenever his car breaks down, which is often, Mar would take the early Monday morning Ceres Liner trip to Cadiz to attend to his work. Oftentimes Mar would tell me about his gripe in being required to travel to Sagay and Murcia to act as Prosecutor because of the shortage of Prosecutors in Negros Occidental. During our friendship for many years, I can attest that Mar remained an honest public servant, a responsible husband and father to his children. He gave most of his life in providing a comfortable life to his family and best education to his son and daughters.   
 The late Marcelo del Pilar had faithfully served the government for more than 36 years, as a member of the PNP, Public Defender and Prosecutor.  There are as many Marcelo del Pilars as there are also rank and file employees who remain devoted to their work and end their service with just enough retirement pay to last in their “sunset” years. They watch in quiet exasperation as many of our government leaders, from national to local government officials pillage the government treasury without compunction and shame.
 The case of Marcelo del Pilar and the 84 other retired Prosecutors should serve as an eye opener to our national and local government leaders to consider their positions as purely public service that involves transparency and accountability and abandon their perception for their positions as power and privilege  shielded by invulnerabilities. While our Senators are quarreling over millions of pesos for their Christmas bonuses and other national agencies spending huge amounts of people’s money on their local and foreign travels, food and accommodation and other perks and allowances, many retired government employees are languishing in dire poverty with their measly pension at the least, and worse for those who are still desperately waiting for their retirement benefits from 2 years or more after the ends of their services.  
Once again the bureaucracy of the Philippine government affirmed its reputation as one of the most corrupt in the world.  The government’s indifference and laxity in the implementation of administrative rules and regulations resulting to inefficiency and red tape has led to the apparent rise of graft and corruption in the country.
On a personal note, I have lost a true friend who became another victim of injustice of the Philippine bureaucracy.
With my family, I am extending our deepest condolences to Mare Teresa, Ryan, Malou and Kim and will pray for the eternal repose of the soul of Atty. Marcelo B. del Pilar.

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