Any pay increase would be welcome

Published December 22, 2019, 12:32 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

E CARTOON Aug 18, 2019
The Senate and the House of Representatives last Monday approved bills providing for increases in the basic salaries of civilian government workers, including teachers and nurses.

House Bill 5712 was approved by the congressmen Monday afternoon, with Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, sponsoring the bill. A few hours later on Monday night, the Senate approved the counterpart Senate Bill 1219. Both bills call for salary adjustments to be implemented in four annual tranches starting January, 2020.

Government employees in Salary Grades 10 to 15 will get the highest increases, ranging from 20 to 30 percent. These include Teachers 1, 2, and 3. The lowest increases – 8 percent – are for employees in the highest Salary Grades 23 to 33. These include department secretaries, undersecretaries, and assistant secretaries. The law does not cover incumbent legislators, the President, and the vice president of the country.

Various teachers goups lamented that the bill provided for very low inceases. Entry-level teachers now getting ₱20,754 a month stand to receive ₱27,000 by 2023. That increase is less than the ₱10,00o the President once promised, they said, adding that it will quickly be eaten up by inflation and the loss of their tax-exempt status.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called for a 5 percent across-the-board pay increase on top of the rates proposed in SB 1219. The Senate majority, however, agreed with the Department of Budget and Management that the government cannot now afford a hefty increase. Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, said Drilon’s proposal would require P60 to P65 billion.

It must be said that a great deal of the expectations of much higher pay increases arise from the doubling this year of military and police men’s salaries, one of the first acts of Congress after President Duterte’s election in 2016. The pay of the country’s 172,000 soldiers and 170,000 policemen was doubled on the first day of January, 2019.

President Duterte told the nation’s teachers then: “Kayo na ang isusunod ko this year.” But the nation’s teachers number 600,000 and the DBM said P600 billion would be needed to double their salaries. And much more would be needed for the rest of the government’s workers.

The salary increases provided by House Bill 5712 and Senate Bill 1219 are indeed way below the doubled pay of uniformed men, but they are all that the national government can afford at this time, in the estimation of the Department of Budget and Management.

We must welcome any salary increase for our government workers. And the doubling of the salaries of uniformed men will be there as a goal for our lawmakers, an example of what can be done for all our civil servants.