In oral arguments yesterday, several justices said petitioners from Ang Nars party-list and Public Services Labor Independent Confederation should have brought to Congress its bid to implement Section 12 of Republic Act 9173 or the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, which sets the minimum salary for entry level nurses in government hospitals at salary grade (SG) 15.
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‘Supreme Court hands tied in salary hike bid for gov’t nurses’
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - February 27, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Groups pushing for an increase in the basic salary of government nurses may be barking up the wrong tree in seeking relief from the Supreme Court (SC).

In oral arguments yesterday, several justices said petitioners from Ang Nars party-list and Public Services Labor Independent Confederation should have brought to Congress its bid to implement Section 12 of Republic Act 9173 or the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, which sets the minimum salary for entry level nurses in government hospitals at salary grade (SG) 15.

During interpellation, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio told petitioners that the hands of the court are tied on the issue pertaining to appropriation of funding for implementation of the salary increase.

“Can this court compel, assuming that you are correct, Congress or the (Department of Budget and Management) to fund Section 12 of this Act? Can we compel Congress to appropriate funds?” Carpio asked.

Petitioners’ counsel Sharon Faith Paquiz replied in the negative: “Insofar as the funding, it is within the ambit of Congress, your honor.”

Because of this, Carpio asked them: “Why go (to SC) and not Congress?”

The senior magistrate explained that Congress has the “final say” on issues of appropriations.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen raised a similar question to the petitioners, specifically what the party-list group had done before the House of Representatives to correct the non-implementation of RA 9173.

Paquiz said they have filed a House resolution for such purpose and found that the law could not be implemented due to lack of funding by the DBM.

Leonen said the SC cannot act on the move of the party-list group to push for implementation of the law, which it failed to carry out in the House.

“If we act on your complaint, therefore, each and every member of the House or Senate who will not gather a majority will come to this court and we will become a superbody,” the magistrate stressed.

For Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, the petition failed to raise constitutional issues for the high court to resolve.

In their petition filed in 2015, the groups asked the SC to compel the DBM to implement Section 32 of RA 9173, which provides that the basic pay of nurses working for hospitals owned by the national government “shall not be lower than salary grade 15.”

SG 15 provides a monthly salary of as much as P31,000, depending on the employee’s length of service.

The petitioners assailed Executive Order 811 implemented by the DBM, based on Joint Resolution (JR) No. 4 passed by Congress in 2009, which sets the salary level of government nurses at SG 11 or as much as P22,000 a month.

JR 4 authorized the President to modify the compensation and position classification system of civilian personnel and the base pay schedule of military and uniformed personnel in the government.

The petitioners argued, however, that JR 4 did not effectively repeal Section 32 of RA 9173 because a joint resolution by Congress cannot repeal a provision of the law stemming from a bill passed by Congress.

Solicitor General Jose Calida has sought the dismissal of the petition.

Calida argued that the SC has no jurisdiction over the issues raised in the case, which involves exclusive legislative power of Congress.

“The repeal of Sec. 32 of RA 9173 through Joint Resolution No. 4 by Congress constitutes a political question beyond the pale of judicial review... The intricacies of the lawmaking process are inherent to Congress alone. The passage of laws, except the people’s direct power of initiative and referendum, rests solely with Congress,” he told the justices.

ANTONIO CARPIO DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT SUPREME COURT
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