Burning issues that need to be addressed

Published January 15, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Atty. Joey D. Lina Former Senator
Atty. Joey D. Lina
Former Senator

By Atty. Joey D. Lina

Former Senator

 

In last Saturday’s DZMM teleradyo program, Magpayo nga kayo, which I co-host with ace broadcaster May Valle Ceniza, some insights worth pondering were shared by callers and texters.

For instance, a lady caller said, the across-the-board salary increase for some sectors in government may not be the right thing to do unless it is clearly shown, based on performance, that they really deserve it.

And the new tax reform package, dubbed by some as “anti-poor,” can be an effective way to prod the lazy to intensify efforts to find work, according to another caller. Also, government ought to be proactive in convincing the public of the clear benefits of the new tax law amid current jitters over looming price increases.

The lady caller who works in the private sector seemed baffled why pay raises have to be granted on a massive scale to certain government personnel like those in the police and military forces, as well as public school teachers, when employees in the private sector have to contend with performance rating to justify any salary increase.

She lamented that such pay hike without any corresponding performance appraisal, similar to performance rating in the private sector, could be likened to some sort of bribery. “Pampadulas pa iyon (Is that grease money)?” she asked as she warned that such practice of seemingly unwarranted and unfair salary increase might even prompt private employees to take to the streets and demand equal treatment.

President Duterte has signed Joint Resolution No. 1 authorizing the increase in base pay of police, military, and other uniformed personnel. Around 76,000 policemen with the lowest rank of Police Officer 1 will receive starting this month a 100 percent increase in their base pay – from P14,834 to P29,668 a month, while those with higher rank will get pay hikes, although not double in amount, in the coming months.

“There is a need to adjust the compensation package of MUP (military and uniformed personnel) in order to make it more commensurate with their critical role in maintaining national security and peace and order, taking into consideration their exposure to high-risk environments in the performance of their duties,” the resolution read. The PNP Directorate for Comptrollership has also said the pay hike is a deterrent against corruption as it would dissuade policemen from wanting to earn money from illegal activities.

The intentions behind the pay hike are deemed noble, especially for the good soldiers and cops who put their lives on the line and continually strive to fulfill their solemn duties with utmost professionalism. But many people are aghast that even the bad eggs, particularly in the police force who gave the PNP a sullied image, would benefit from the pay hike they don’t deserve. Thus, a no-nonsense appraisal, similar to the process of determining those qualified for a performance-based bonus in the private sector, would have ferreted out the undeserving.

The pay hike for cops and soldiers is also fuelling demands for a similar salary increase for the nation’s public schoolteachers, many of whom have felt offended when Budget Secretary Ben Diokno was quoted as saying that a pay hike for teachers would have to take a back seat to give way to more priority projects like the administration’s “Build, build, build” infra program.

Although Education Secretary Leonor Briones, who was guest last Sunday in my other DZMM teleradyo program Sagot ko ‘yan, has said the current pay scale of public school teachers is already enough for decent living, especially in the provinces, and is much higher than those of other professions, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers said their sector deserves more to enable them to cope with rising prices of commodities.

The rise in prices of goods is the inevitable offshoot of the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act which is seen as a “double whammy” for the jobless and even for the self-employed whose lack of a fixed and regular income makes them unable to benefit from the income tax exemption of those with annual pay not exceeding P250,000.

While supporters of the new tax law see it as a way to compel the unemployed to actively seek work for them to benefit from the savings derived from exemption on income tax, the TRAIN law is causing jitters among those apprehensive of the adverse consequences it might bring in the near future.

Thus, it is imperative for government to be proactive in communicating and dealing with the various issues that worry people: Are the savings from tax exemptions big enough to cushion price increases resulting from the excise tax on fuel that affects transport of goods? What exactly are the benefits in the long run of the new tax law? What are the concrete projects and programs that will be funded by revenues raised by the TRAIN Act?

Concerned government agencies must also be very diligent in acting on consumer complaints of profiteering and other trade violations, in monitoring and validating reports on the ground about abuses of in the guise of following the new tax law. In other words, appeasing the general public facing the full impact of the new law right now – with TRAIN’s tangible benefits in terms of concrete projects still in the making and which could be completed after several years yet – ought to be of prime importance to spare people from undue worries and help them deal with the tough consequences.

 

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