SC asked to force Diokno to release pay hike
A group of 50 government personnel yesterday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to compel the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release the fourth and final tranche of salary increase, which state workers are supposed to receive today under the Salary Standardization Law (SSL).
In a 28-page petition for mandamus, the petitioners led by House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya urged the high court to order Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to implement the salary upgrade, even with the government using a reenacted budget due to the delayed passage of the General Appropriations Act (GAA) by Congress.
The petitioners argued that the release of the funds for salary increase under Executive Order 201 signed by former president Benigno Aquino III in 2016 should be ministerial on the part of the DBM.
“There is no basis for the delay in the release and disbursement of funds as there are available alternative sources of funds for the fourth tranche of salary increase,” they stressed.
Andaya and company cited two alternatives for the DBM to cover the P42.7 billion needed for the pay hike: the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) and savings from the reenacted 2018 budget.
In the 2018 budget, the MPBF amounts to P99.446 billion, P62.8 billion of which is for compensation adjustment, while P12.36 billion is for staffing modification and upgrading of salaries.
“As can be seen above, only P42.705 billion is needed by the DBM to fund the fourth tranche of salary increase for 2019. Even if the DBM uses P75.169 billion covering allocations for compensation adjustment, it is still more than the P42 billion requirement for the fourth tranche of salary increase,” read the petition.
“In fact, even if the DBM wishes to use the proposed 2019 GAA for MPBF, which amounts to P51.575 billion, it can still cover the required amount for salary increase,” it added.
The petitioners suggested that the DBM may get onefourth of the required funding of about P10.676 billion “to cover for the first three months of the year, considering that the GAA may still be passed within the first quarter of 2019.”
As a second contingency, the petitioners said the DBM may utilize the savings under the reenacted 2018 national budget.
Lastly, the petitioners argued that the SSL – being a continuing program – should be automatically given allocation in the national budget and not depend on passage of the GAA for 2019.
The petitioners asked the SC to issue a preliminary mandatory injunction requiring the DBM to immediately release the fourth tranche of salary increases to government workers.
The SC is expected to tackle the petition today.
Diokno welcomes petition
Diokno welcomed Andaya’s petition for mandamus before the SC even as he maintained that there is no legal basis to increase the salary of government workers without the approval of the 2019 national budget by Congress.
The budget chief said Andaya’s move would help settle the dispute concerning the implementation of the fourth tranche of salary increase.
“If there is a difference between his interpretation that there’s the MPBF, which we can use, and our interpretation that it is not provided in the 2018 budget, it’s good that there’s a case before the SC so once and for all we can resolve this issue,” he added.
DBM Assistant Secretary Myrna Chua explained that the MPBF may not be used for the pay hike as it only covers the salary adjustment for 2018.
Chua also cited EO 201, which provides that the additional salary and benefits under the SSL should be implemented subject to appropriations by Congress.
Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV filed yesterday a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the DBM should use the MPBF to implement the fourth tranche of salary increase for government workers.
“There is no reason for the DBM not to immediately disburse the funds needed for the salary increases, which can help government personnel in dealing with the prevailing high prices of basic goods and services,” Aquino said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Francis Pangilinan, Antonio Trillanes, Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros signed Aquino’s Resolution 982.
Aquino said the DBM is authorized to release and pay the salaries immediately, without the need for Congress approval.
Meanwhile, Malacañang maintained that Congress, not the executive branch, is the one holding the fourth tranche of the government pay hike hostage.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo agreed with the DBM that the 2019 budget should be passed first before the pay increase could be implemented.
“What will be your basis? Where will you get the money?... That’s precisely why we’re asking the House of Representatives and the Senate to approve the budget,” Panelo said.
Panelo said the fourth tranche of the pay hike was supposed to be included in the 2019 budget. Since there is no new budget and the 2018 outlay was reenacted, the salary increase could not be done, he added.
“But I heard the President was saying he will work for the increase in addition to the fourth tranche. He promised that,” Panelo said.
State workers yesterday wore black ribbons to protest the delay in the salary increase for government employees.
COURAGE national president Ferdinand Gaite noted that some House members have been at odds with the budget chief over the passage of the 2019 national budget.
He said President Duterte even allowed members of Congress to have a larger portion of the “parked” funds in government agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways.
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. files a petition before the Supreme Court yesterday to compel Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to release the fourth tranche of salary increase for state workers.