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Congress implements SC ruling on higher nurses’ pay

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star
Congress implements SC ruling on higher nursesâ pay
The two chambers of Congress have allocated P3.2 billion in the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for next year for the adjustment. The House has sent President Duterte an advance copy of the budget for his study.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives and the Senate are implementing a Supreme Court ruling entitling government nurses to higher basic monthly salary.

The two chambers of Congress have allocated P3.2 billion in the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for next year for the adjustment. The House has sent President Duterte an advance copy of the budget for his study.

Covered by the pay hike are nurses in hospitals run by the Department of Health throughout the country, including four specialty health facilities in Quezon City. They stand to receive an additional P11,300 a month.

The House committee on health chaired by Quezon City Rep. Angelina Tan has supported the increase, while Sen. Panfilo Lacson backed the adjustment in the Senate.

Tan said the pay hike is timely, since nurses and other health workers would be an important pillar in implementing the universal health care (UHC) program starting in January.

However, she said the salary of nurses in hospitals run by local government units should be adjusted too because they are also a vital component of the program’s implementation.

Her vice chairman, Mike Defensor of party-list group Anakalusugan, said Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano made sure funds were included in the 2020 budget for carrying out the Supreme Court decision on higher nurses’ pay.

“Even before other lawmakers spoke on this issue, he assured us that the salary of government nurses would be increased in compliance with the ruling,” he said.

Before the ruling came out, other House members, including deputy speaker and 1-Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero, have filed bills upgrading nurses’ compensation to Salary Grade 15.

Aside from including P3.2 billion in the 2020 for the nurses’ higher salary, the House and the Senate also added a special provision mandating the government to pay the increase “in compliance with the decision of the Supreme Court in Ang Nars Party-list vs Executive Secretary, G.R. No. 215746 pursuant to Section 32 of Republic Act (RA) No. 9173 (Philippine Nursing Act of 2002).”

The provision further states: “Provided that the implementation of the salary adjustment of nurses shall take effect when the said decision of the Supreme Court had become final and executory, but not earlier than the start of the fiscal year 2020.”

In its ruling last October penned by then senior associate justice Antonio Carpio, the high court said government nurses are entitled to Salary Grade 15 as provided under the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, instead of Salary Grade 11, which is the pay level they are receiving.

The Department of Budget and Management had downgraded the nurses’ basic compensation by authority of Congress under Joint Resolution No. 4.

The Supreme Court in effect ruled that a joint resolution could not prevail over a law. This is the reason why the House of Representatives and the Senate converted their joint resolution extending the validity of portions of the 2019 budget to the end of next year into a bill, which President Duterte signed into RA No. 11464 on Tuesday.

The entry-level pay under Salary Grade 11 is P20,754. Salary Grade 15 is P9,780 higher at P30,531. This would go up to P32,053, P11,299 more than the present basic compensation, if the proposed new round of four-year salary upgrading in the bureaucracy is enacted.

The House of Representatives has already approved the bill containing the next round of pay adjustment for 2020-2023. When the program is fully implemented in 2023, government workers will have received pay increases for eight consecutive years.

The October ruling was handed down four years after then Ang Nars representative Leah Paquiz challenged the downgrading of her constituents’ salary. Ang Nars failed to win a congressional seat in last May’s elections.

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