A measure that seeks to institutionalize a Magna Carta of benefits for the officers and personnel of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has moved forward in the House of Representatives.
The House Committee on Dangerous Drugs greenlit on Friday the creation of a technical working group (TWG) for the consolidation of House Bill (HB) Nos. 73 and 3233 authored by Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers and Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento, respectively.
Also included in the consolidation process is Magdalo party-list Rep. Manuel Cabochan III’s HB No. 2248, which aims to grant hazard pay worth P2,000 to every eligible PDEA personnel.
“This representation has filed HB No.73 in order to promote and improve the well-being and economic welfare of the men and women of the PDEA by providing them with acceptable living and working conditions, better terms of employment, and career opportunities in order to effectively carry out their mandate,” committee chairman Barbers said.
Sarmiento, a vice chairman of the Dangerous Drug panel, was named head of the TWG.
The discussion on the pro-PDEA benefits bills moved quickly as none of the invited resource persons from differnt government agencies objected to the measures.
Newly installed PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva was on hand during the virtual hearing. He expressed his “deepest gratitude” to the lawmakers for pushing for additional benefits for agency personnel.
Cabochan, in justifying HB No. 2248, noted that PDEA is the lead agency in the government’s anti-drug campaign. “This places its personnel in great danger especially during anti-drug operations, as well as exposes them to toxic materials used in illegal drugs.”
“There is no doubt that there are occupational risks for PDEA personnel. As such, they deserve to be given hazard pay like their counterparts in other government agencies that perform similar hazardous duty,” he added.
The former Navy lieutenant left it to the panel to find ways to possibly increase his proposed P2,000 hazard pay, saying he would “welcome it.”
Department of Justice (DoJ) Undersecretary Adrian Sugay said when asked to comment on the pending bills: “We support these bills and in fact we feel that it is high-time that we pass these bills into law in order to further strengthen PDEA as well as the government’s anti-drug efforts.”
Once the bills are consolidated by the TWG, the resulting measure will be sent to the mother panel, which would then give it its final approval.