This means that taxpayers will spend nearly P396 million for each of the 24 senators, their staff and consultants, and Senate employees.
Senators pad own budget for 2020 by P2 billion
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - December 8, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Senators have padded their own budget for next year, increasing it by P2 billion, for a total budget of up to P9.5 billion.

This means that taxpayers will spend nearly P396 million for each of the 24 senators, their staff and consultants, and Senate employees.

In contrast, the House of Representatives will have P14.1 billion for its 303 members, their staff and consultants and personnel, or an average of P46.5 million, which is just 12 percent of the budget for each senator.

The House has 3,680 filled permanent positions, while the Senate has 1,928.

The Senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives hold Salary Grade 32, the second highest pay level in the bureaucracy after the president, who is entitled to Salary Grade 33.

The basic salary for Salary Grade 32 holders, who also include the vice president and the chief justice, ranges from P307,365 to P353,470 under Executive Order (EO) 201. The officials usually receive the higher-end pay.

Executive Order 201 contains the four-year salary adjustment program in the bureaucracy, which ends this year.

Former president Benigno Aquino lll issued EO 201 in February 2016, four months before he stepped down, after the two chambers of Congress failed to approve the proposed Salary Standardization Law 4 due to a disagreement on indexing military and police pensions to the salary increase of those in active service.           

Members of the Senate and the House hold Salary Grade 31, which pays between P257,809 and P295,191. This is also the salary level of secretaries of departments and other officials with a Cabinet rank.

It is also the pay rate of the Senate secretary, House secretary general and secretary of the Commission on Appointments (CA). Their deputies, of whom there are several, receive Salary Grade 30 compensation, which ranges from P175,184 to P196,206.
Officers of the Senate, House, CA, Senate Electoral Tribunal and House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal are among the highest-paid bureaucrats in the annual report of the Commission on Audit on total compensation, which includes allowances and other emoluments.

Also among the highest paid are senators, congressmen and Supreme Court justices sitting in the two tribunals which handle election protests against lawmakers, and SC members themselves who comprise the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

The P2-billion increase in the Senate budget is one of hundreds of realignments totaling P206 billion that the smaller chamber made in its version of the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for next year.

A bicameral conference committee is now reconciling these changes with those proposed by the House.

Sen. Sonny Angara, chairman of the finance committee that drafted the Senate version of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for 2020, expects the bicameral conference committee to approve a final version on Monday or Tuesday next week.

“We’re (bicameral committee) on track to approving it. Hopefully, we could ratify it too by then,” Angara said in a telephone interview.

The bicameral committee – composed of representatives from the Senate and the House tasked to iron out conflicting provisions of their respective versions of the GAB – met for the last time on Thursday to come up with a final draft for their formal signing, and possibly ratification by the two chambers, next week.

The committee staff will be busy during the weekend to write down the amendments that both sides agreed to be made to the GAB.

Except for some public statements by some congressional leaders on certain changes made to the proposed national budget by either chamber, the proceedings went on quietly.

Angara clarified reports that the bicameral panel reverted back to the National Expenditure Program – how the budget is called as it is submitted by Malacañang to Congress and before it is amended by lawmakers – in its final stages of discussions. 

He said the move did not revert the proceedings to “square one” but simply was meant to make the discussions clearer and more efficient, especially that both chambers aim to submit the GAB to President Duterte on or before Dec. 21.     – With Paolo Romero

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