House, Senate leaders told to stop blame game; stalemate affecting state workers’ salaries

By Charissa Luci-Atienza

Instead of pointing fingers at each other, the House of Representatives and the Senate should file cases against each other over the purported anomalies in the ratified P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget, Makabayan lawmaker said Tuesday.

ACT Teachers partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio said the Upper and Lower Chambers should stop the blame game and flex their muscles to ensure the enactment of the spending measure, lamenting that “the battle for pork” in the national budget caused a delay on the two-month salaries of teachers in Regions 7 and 12, and in the fourth tranche of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL).

ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio (Photo courtesy of Act Teachers Party-List / FACEBOOK)
ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio (Photo courtesy of Act Teachers Party-List / FACEBOOK)

“Stop these games at harapin ang trabaho, aprubahan na at ipatupad ang budget para masweldohan ‘yung ating mga empleyado ng tama,” he told reporters in a press conference.

“Nalantad na ang lahat ng mga anomalya at posibilidad ng corruption sa budget na ito, nagbabatuhan ng akusasyon ang Senado at Kongreso. Yamang nandyan na ‘yan, dapat magsampahan na ng kaso,” Tinio said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto had disclosed that some P79 billion worth of realignments were made to the P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget by the House of Representatives in preparing the final copy of the spending measure.

Responding to Sotto’s claims, Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, turned the tables on the senators, and disclosed that the Upper Chamber had post-bicameral realignment amounting to P75 billion, P25-billion of which was parked in the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Andaya branded the realignment as “clearly parked pork.”

Andaya insisted that there was nothing illegal with the ratified spending bill, rejecting Sotto’s claims that detailing the ratified General Appropriations Bill (GAB) was already unconstitutional.

Tinio said it would only be a mere show if both chambers fail to act on each other’s allegations.

“Otherwise palabas lang ‘yan at binibigyan lang ng palabas na ito si Pangulong Duterte ng excuse para magkaroon ng reenacted budget na pakikinabangan pangunahin ng administrayson mismo ni Pangulong Duterte lalo na sa darating na eleksyon dahil kontrolado ng Presidente ang buong budget at napakadaling gamitin nito para ipanalo ng administrasyon ang kanilang mga kandidato,” he said.

Tinio, along with ACT Teachers partylist Rep. France Castro said because of the delay in the passage of the 2019 budget, the government state workers, particularly public school teachers continue to suffer.

They scoffed at the Duterte government’s failure to provide the two-month salaries of at least 74 public school teachers hired beyond May 31, 2018, in Regions 7 and 13 because of the pending 2019 budget.

Citing the reports from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, the lawmakers noted that the regular and permanent teachers from 32 municipalities in Region 7 and three municipalities in CARAGA region have complained of the delay in their salaries for January and February.

“The 2019 budget has not only been loaded with pork barrel projects of lawmakers and Malacañang, it has also been the cause for the delay in the release of the 4th tranche of the EO 201 salary increase for government employees and worse the non-compensation for some teachers,” Tinio said.

“Teachers have long been suffering from low salaries. The battle for pork in the national budget has caused not only a delay in the 4th tranche of the Salary Standardization Law but also a delay on the 2 month salaries of teachers hired beyond May 31, 2018 in Region VII and XIII,” he said.

Castro described as “unjust” the two-month non-compensation for the public school teachers, as the lawmakers’ feud over pork barrel shares intensifies.

“Teachers have been disrespected by the state with the neglect and injustice for the lack of adequate salaries and just benefits. The two-month non-compensation for our teachers is unjust especially because the cause of the delay is the bickering of some lawmakers over pork barrel shares,”she said. “Kung dati ay over worked yet underpaid ang mga guro, ngayon overworked at tuluyan na silang unpaid. Hindi na nga dinidinig ang panawagan nilang dagdag sahod labas sa 4th tranche, hindi pa sila nababayaran ng kanilang sweldo dahil sa mga antala ng pork barrel,” she added.

Tinio called on the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to swiftly act on the unpaid salaries of the teachers.

“We demand President Duterte to fulfill his promise and to prioritize the immediate passage of House Bill 7211 granting salary increases to teachers and other government employees,” he said.