After four years, the SC granted the petition of a party-list group representing nurses seeking the implementation of a law that sets a minimum salary grade for state nurses.
Edd Gumban/File
SC: Government nurses deserve higher pay, but…
Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - October 10, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Government nurses are entitled to higher basic pay, but it’s up to Malacañang and Congress to allocate funds and grant the salary hike, the Supreme Court (SC) has ruled.

After four years, the SC granted the petition of a party-list group representing nurses seeking the implementation of a law that sets a minimum salary grade for state nurses.

The SC, however, did not grant the plea of the petitioners to compel the implementation of the salary upgrade, ruling that this would require Congress to pass a law allocating funds.

The SC ruled in favor of Ang Nars party-list’s 2015 petition to uphold Section 32 of Republic Act 9173 or the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, which says that state nurses should not be paid lower than salary grade 15.

RA 9173 expressly states that “in order to enhance the general welfare, commitment to service and professionalism of nurses, the minimum base pay of nurses working in public health institutions shall not be lower than salary grade 15 prescribed under Republic Act No. 6758, otherwise known as the Compensation and Classification Act of 1989: ‘Provided, that for nurses working in local government units, adjustments to their salaries shall be in accordance with Section 10 of the said law.’”

The salary grade of government nurses was downgraded in 2009 after the House of Representatives and the Senate adopted Joint Resolution No. 4 that 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.”

Thereafter, then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approved the same joint resolution. To implement the joint resolution, Arroyo issued Executive Order 811 which mandated that the salary grade for the position “Nurse I” be increased from SG 10 to SG 11, below the salary grade stated by RA 9173.

This prompted former Ang Nars party-list representative Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz to assail the presidential decree before the high court and asked that nurses be given salaries pursuant to the law.

“The SC ruled in favor of the petitioners and said Joint Resolution No. 4, being a mere resolution, cannot amend or repeal a prior law such as RA 9173. The same applies to EO 811 that is also not a law, but an executive directive,” the SC said in a statement.

DOH backs SC ruling

The Department of Health (DOH), also named respondent in the case, said it supports the P29,000 minimum pay for nurses as affirmed by the SC, Secretary Francisco Duque III said yesterday.

“If there is money to fund it, great. We support it 1,000 percent,” Duque noted during the Kapihan Sa Manila Bay forum at Cafe Adriatico in Manila.

He, however, underscored that it was up to the Department of Budget and Management and Department of Finance (DOF) on how they would fund the nurses’ Salary Grade 15, equivalent to P29,010 a month.

“It is easy to say ‘yes we give you higher salary, we will give you more money.’ But where’s the beef? At the end of the day, the question is, are there funds for it,” he added.

The DOH has proposed a budget of P220 billion for 2020. But Duque said that P160 billion of this will be used for the initial implementation of universal health care (UHC).

He added that the UHC is relying on sin tax collection and appropriation from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

Asked how the DOH can keep nurses from working abroad, Duque admitted that while having a minimum pay of P30,000 for nurses was fine, it is still “not enough when you start comparing to international benchmarks.”

He cited Canada and other countries where nurses’ salary is equivalent to P160,000 to P200,000.

“There’s no way in this world to bring it even to 50 percent. It is not possible,” Duque maintained. Sheila Crisostomo

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