SC asked to force Dio­kno to re­lease pay hike

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - By EDU PU­NAY – With Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero, Rho­d­ina Vil­lanueva, Mary Grace Padin

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.

Black protest

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.

EDD GUMBAN

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.

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