Congress adjourns without approving pay standardization
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - February 3, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The two chambers of Congress adjourned session last night for the election campaign without approving the proposed Salary Standardization Law (SSL) 4.

The draft law contains the planned four-year salary increase program for 1.527 million government workers, including 347,000 military and other uniformed personnel (MUP) such as policemen, firemen, Coast Guard members and jail guards.

With the failure of Congress to pass the proposed legislation, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said President Aquino has the option to issue an executive order authorizing a smaller pay hike.

Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto raised the same position. Drilon explained that this year’s national budget already contains P57.9 billion for the implementation of the first tranche of the SSL4.

“So he can mandate salary increases for our government employees, which was done in the past,” Drilon said.

Congress will be on break until May 22 or after this year’s general elections.

Asked if President Aquino would consider issuing an EO, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said “we await the final decision of Congress on the proposed SSL4 that is still pending with the bicameral conference committee.”

Gonzales said senators and congressmen can still tackle the draft SSL4 when they reconvene in May after the elections.

The bicameral conference committee on the proposed salary increase law remained deadlocked on the last session day of Congress over the P19.5-billion additional funding for this year alone the Senate version of the measure would require.

The conference panel, jointly chaired by House appropriations committee chairman Isidro Ungab of Davao City and Senate civil service committee head Antonio Trillanes IV, could not convene yesterday because Trillanes reportedly left for the United States.

The senator departed days before a Makati court ordered his arrest in connection with a libel case the Binays had filed against him.

The senators’ version of the proposed SSL 4 calls for indexing MUP retirees’ pension to the increased salaries of their active duty counterparts.

This means that if active duty personnel would receive a P1,000 pay hike, retirees would get the same adjustment.

According to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, there are no funds in the 2016 national budget for the Senate-proposed indexation.

On the other hand, the House version, which does not include increasing MUP retirees’ pension, is fully funded with the congressmen’s inclusion of P58 billion in this year’s outlay.

The conference panel first met Wednesday last week, but the meeting immediately hit a blank wall with each side insisting on its version of the proposed salary increase law.

False hopes

Ungab said they could have accepted the Senate’s indexation proposal and be popular with retired military and other uniformed personnel.

“But without the needed funds, we would just be giving them false hopes. They will later blame Congress for not providing the necessary funding,” he said.

The lawmaker said it was the responsibility of the House to look after the funding aspect of a measure involving the appropriation of taxpayers’ money.

In the wake of the adjournment of session without the approval of the proposed salary increase law, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said there is still time in May for lawmakers to work on it. – With Christina Mendez, Marvin Sy, Aurea Calica

 

ACIRC ANTONIO TRILLANES AUREA CALICA BUDGET SECRETARY FLORENCIO ABAD COAST GUARD DRILON DRILON AND SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE RALPH RECTO HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER NEPTALI GONZALES ISIDRO UNGAB OF DAVAO CITY AND SENATE PRESIDENT AQUINO PROPOSED
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