By Charissa Luci-Atienza
A progressive lawmaker expressed concern on Tuesday that the continued feud between the Legislative and the Executive over the supposed “pork barrel” in the 2019 proposed national budget would jeopardize the interest of public school teachers and uniformed personnel.
ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio lamented that state workers will be deprived of salary hikes this month following the Congress’ failure to approve the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
“Isa sa epekto ng re-enacted budget ay hindi makakatanggap ang kawani ng gobyerno ng four tranche ng salary increase ngayong Enero. Ang kawani ng gobyerno ay biktima ng away sa pork ng Lehislatibo at Ehekutibo (One of the effects of a re-enacted budget is that state workers won’t get their salary increase. State workers are the victims of the pork barrel feud between the Legislative and the Executive) ,” he told reporters in a press conference.
“Sa pagbubukas ng Kongreso next week, panawagan ng Makabayan ay dapat itigil na ang bangayan sa pork (When Congress resumes session next week, Makabayan will call for an end to the pork barrel feud),” he said.
Tinio said the government employees are supposed to receive the fourth and final tranche of their Salary Standardization Law (SSL) salary increases under the 2019 budget.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, also aired the same concern. “Under a reenacted budget, state workers, which include public school teachers and uniformed personnel, cannot receive their salary hikes under the fourth tranche of the SSL, not even the benefits due them,” he laments.
Villafuerte said the government “cannot implement new projects and are constrained to spend only 25 percent of the allocated amount for ongoing projects in the first quarter of the year because of the delay in the approval of the 2019 GAB.”
He sought the immediate approval of the 2019 GAB when Congress resumes session on Monday next week, proposing that the spending measure be submitted straight to the bicameral conference committee and be approved as proposed by Malacañang.
“I ask my fellow lawmakers to transcend personal and partisan political interests in passing the GAB as soon as the Congress reopens next week,” Villafuerte said.
“I urge my fellow lawmakers to rally behind my proposal to submit the budget as proposed by the Executive to the bicam (bicameral conference committee) and have it approved once the Congress resumes session on Jan. 14,” he said.
Villafuerte said Malacañang cannot be blamed for the delay in the approval of the budget, noting the proposed national budget for this year was submitted on the same day President Duterte delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July last year.
“The ball has long been in our court. We cannot allow political interests and the petty issues raised by a few to prevail in carrying out our constitutional duty as lawmakers at the expense of delaying the pay hikes and benefits for our soldiers and cops who risk their lives in the field, our public school teachers who are overworked and the tens of thousands of other government workers who deliver frontline services to the public,” he said.