The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday was asked to compel the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release starting Tuesday the P42.7 billion representing the fourth tranche of salary increases for government workers.
The fourth tranche of salary increases is provided for under Executive Order No. 201 that was issued by former President Benigno Aquino III in 2016.
In a petition filed by House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr., the SC was told that the release of the funds for the increases should be a ministerial duty of the DBM.
Together with a group of 50 government personnel, Andaya’s petition stated that the DBM should release the funds even while the government is using a re-enacted budget for failure of Congress to pass the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA), the budget law.
“There is no basis for the delay in the release and disbursement of funds as there are available alternative sources of funds for the fourth tranche of personnel benefits under EO 201,” the petitioners said.
The petition cited two alternative sources to cover for the P42.7 billion needed for the salary increases. It said the funds can be secured from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) and the savings from the re-enacted 2018 budget.
It said the MPBF still has P99.4 billion which is “allowed to be used for payments of personal benefits, such as deficiencies in authorized salaries, bonuses, allowances, associated premiums and other similar personnel benefits of National Government personnel, among others.”
It pointed out that the P75 billion from the said MPBF fund is allotted for “Payment of Compensation Adjustment” and “Funding Requirements for Staffing Modifications and Upgrading and Salaries,” which could be used by the DBM for the fourth tranche of salary increases.
“As can be seen above, only P42,705,911,000 is needed by the DBM to fund the fourth tranche salary increase and adjustment for the year 2019, when it has a total amount of P99,446,295,000 in the MPBF. Even if DBM simply uses the P75,169,215,000 covering allocations for compensation adjustment and salary upgrades, it is still more than the required Forty-Two Billion requirement for the fourth tranche salary increase and adjustments. In fact, even if DBM wishes to use the proposed 2019 GAA for MPBF, which amounts to P51,575,607,000, it can still cover the required amount for salary increase and adjustment,” the petition stated.
It pointed out that the DBM may utilize just one-fourth of the required funding for the fourth tranche of about P10.6 billion “to cover for the first three months of 2019… considering that the 2019 GAA may still be passed within the first quarter of the year 2019.”
Also, the petition stated that the DBM may use the savings under the re-enacted 2018 budget.
“While the 1987 Constitution prohibits any transfer of appropriations by law, it does provide for certain key government officials to ‘augment any item in the General Appropriations Act for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.’ This provision thereby recognizes the need for some flexibility in budget execution in order to adequately respond to unforeseeable events,” it said.
Being a “continuing program,” the fourth tranche of salary increases should be automatically allocated in the budget and should not depend on the passage of the 2019 GAA, it also said.
The petition stressed: “… EO 201 is a continuing program which started in the fiscal year 2016, and ends in the fiscal year 2019 for a four-part salary adjustment scheme. It is akin to a road or bridge project which has a four- year completion program beginning in the year 2016 and ending in the year 2019. In the case the 2018 GAA re-enacted budget, said road or bridge project is still considered funded the year 2019, only up to the amount allotted to in in the 2018 GAA. Thus, the fourth tranche of EO 201 should still be considered funded since an allotment was given in the 2018 GAA for salary adjustments. And, the deficiency in the amount for said adjustments may be charged against the MPBF of the 2018 GAA.”
Earlier, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno had announced that the fourth tranche of salary adjustments will be implemented next week upon the approval of the 2019 budget.
“With pronouncements from Congress that budget bill will be their top priority upon resumption (of sessions), we expect the General Appropriations Act (GAA), the law on the yearly budget, to be signed first week of February,” Diokno had said.
He had also said that the government is running on a re-enacted budget which does not cover the salary increases for government workers.
SOURCE: Manila Bulletin