As to the issue of who has the better right over the SSS death benefits, Section 8(e) and (k) of R. A. No. 8282 is very clear. Hence, we need only apply the law. Under the principles of statutory construction, if a statute is clear, plain and free from ambiguity, it must be given its literal meaning and applied without attempted interpretation. This plain meaning rule or verba legis, derived from the maxim index animi sermo est (speech is the index of intention), rests on the valid presumption that the words employed by the legislature in a statute correctly express its intent by the use of such words as are found in the statute. Verba legis non est recedendum, or, from the words of a statute there should be no departure.
Section 8(e) and (k) of R.A. No. 8282 provides:
SEC. 8. Terms Defined.—For the purposes of this Act, the following terms shall, unless the context indicates otherwise, have the following meanings:
x x x
(e) Dependents — The dependent shall be the following:
(1) The legal spouse entitled by law to receive support from the member;
2) The legitimate, legitimated, or legally adopted, and illegitimate child who is unmarried, not gainfully employed and has not reached twenty-one years (21) of age, or if over twenty-one (21) years of age, he is congenitally or while still a minor has been permanently incapacitated and incapable of self-support, physically or mentally; and
3) The parent who is receiving regular support from the member.
x x x
(k) Beneficiaries — The dependent spouse until he or she remarries, the dependent legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted, and illegitimate children, who shall be the primary beneficiaries of the member: Provided, That the dependent illegitimate children shall be entitled to fifty percent (50%) of the share of the legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted children: Provided, further, That in the absence of the dependent legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted children of the member, his/her dependent illegitimate children shall be entitled to one hundred percent (100%) of the benefits. In their absence, the dependent parents who shall be the secondary beneficiaries of the member. In the absence of all of the foregoing, any other person designated by the member as his/her secondary beneficiary.
SEC. 13. Death Benefits. — Upon the death of a member who has paid at least thirty-six (36) monthly contributions prior to the semester of death, his primary beneficiaries shall be entitled to the monthly pension: Provided, That if he has no primary beneficiaries, his secondary beneficiaries shall be entitled to a lump sum benefit equivalent to thirty-six (36) times the monthly pension. If he has not paid the required thirty-six (36) monthly contributions, his primary or secondary beneficiaries shall be entitled to a lump sum benefit equivalent to the monthly pension times the number of monthly contributions paid to the SSS or twelve (12) times the monthly pension, whichever is higher. (Emphasis supplied).
Whoever claims entitlement to the benefits provided by law should establish his or her right thereto by substantial evidence. Since petitioner is disqualified to be a beneficiary and because the deceased has no legitimate child, it follows that the dependent illegitimate minor children of the deceased shall be entitled to the death benefits as primary beneficiaries. The SSS Law is clear that for a minor child to qualify as a “dependent,” the only requirements are that he/she must be below 21 years of age, not married nor gainfully employed.
In this case, the minor illegitimate children Ginalyn and Rodelyn were born on13 April 1996and20 April 2000, respectively. Had the legitimate child of the deceased and Editha survived and qualified as a dependent under the SSS Law, Ginalyn and Rodelyn would have been entitled to a share equivalent to only 50% of the share of the said legitimate child. Since the legitimate child of the deceased predeceased him, Ginalyn and Rodelyn, as the only qualified primary beneficiaries of the deceased, are entitled to 100% of the benefits.