The Supreme Court held oral arguments on the four-year-old petition on Tuesday, February 26.
The STAR/Edd Gumban, File photo
Calida: Petition pushing pay hike for nurses lacks legal basis
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - February 26, 2019 - 7:01pm

MANILA, Philippines — Solicitor General Jose Calida on Tuesday defended the government from petitioners asking the Supreme Court to compel the Budget department to implement the law mandating a salary grade 15 pay hike for state nurses.

The SC held a one-day oral argument on the 2015 petition filed by former Rep. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz (Ang Nars) asking the court to compel the Department of Budget and Management to enact a provision of Republic Act 9713 or the Philippine Nursing Act in 2002.

The petitioners are raising that following RA 9173, nurses should receive a pay not lower than salary grade 15 instead of salary grade 11, which was provided by Executive Order No. 811 issued by then-president and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The EO was issued in accordance with House of Representatives Joint Resolution No. 4, s. 2009.

Calida argued before the court: "[I]n the absence of any legal basis, respondents cannot be compelled to implement Section 32 of RA 9173."

The solicitor general, in his opening statement, said that he was in possession of position papers from the upper and lower houses stating that a joint resolution is considered a law.

“Joint Resolution No. 4, s.2009 effectively repealed Sec. 32 of Republic Act 9173,” Calida added.

The government’s chief lawyer also said that the petitioners violated the hierarchy of courts as the writ of certiorari and mandamus might also be issued by lower courts such as the Court of Appeals and a regional trial court.

“Here, petitioners failed to demonstrate that neither the RTCs nor the CA are capable of granting them the remedy they wish to obtain,” the solicitor general added in his opening statement.

Meanwhile, Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr. said that it seemed like lawyer Sharon Faith Paquiz, counsel for the petitioners, was having a hard time arguing before the SC.

Reyes suggested that the petitioners “resort to appeals to the Office of the President.”

But Paquiz explained that they have already sought the president's office “to no avail.”

Granting of petition will create ‘distortion’

Calida also said that if the SC grants the petition and issues a writ of mandamus, it “will unduly bloat the salary of government nurses and will create severe distortion among other medical allied professions.”

“A Nurse1 with SG15, under the provision of RA9173, is considerably higher than a Pharmacist1 (SG11), Optometrist1 (SG12), Occupation Therapist1 (SG11), Midwife1 (SG9), Medical Technologist1 (SG11), & Dentist1 (SG14),” the solicitor general enumerated.

He stressed that all the professions work under the same conditions but would become “differently situated” if the provision of RA 9173 would be enforced.

Calida added that the assailed EO was "precisely to avoid the occurrence of wage distortions caused by the grant of benefits to selected professions under special laws."

Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando also raised that had the government implemented the provision then, there would be “a problem on salary level of other doctors.”

“Doctors at that time [were] receiving a salary commensurate to the pay scale of SG14 level. If we were to implement that—that would be inequitable to our doctors who are just as hardworking,” the justice said.

But Paquiz argued that the task to make the pay equitable falls on DBM and Civil Service Commission “to reclassify the position classification of other health workers such as doctors, and not to pull them down.”

Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin gave both parties 20 days to file their respective memoranda on the case.

NURSES PAY HIKE SUPREME COURT
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