DBM to Malacañang: Amend salary hike EO if budget impasse continues

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has recommended the amendment of the executive order (EO) on the salary increase for government workers so they can get their pay hike amid the 2019 national budget impasse.

"Should the impasse continue further with the delayed passage of the 2019 national budget, the [DBM] has recommended the amendment of EO No. 201 (Salary Standardization Law) to the Office of the President," DBM said in a statement.

"With this measure, the long overdue compensation hike that our public servants have been looking forward to can finally be granted," it added. 

The government is on its third month operating on a reenacted budget, after Congress failed to pass the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA) last year. (READ: What to expect as gov't operates on a reenacted budget)

The DBM made the recommendation to the OP days after the Senate and the House of Representatives failed to reach a consensus on the P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget despite the intercession of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The supposed salary hike or the 4th and final tranche of the Salary Standardization Law issued during the administration of Benigno Aquino III as been held hostage because of the impasse.

Lawmakers earlier said that the DBM has "tools" within the budget to authorize such release of funds, but then-budget chief Benjamin Diokno insisted that such move is "unconstitutional."

Section 11 of Executive Order No. 201 states: "The modified Salary Schedule and additional benefits authorized shall be implemented in National Government Agencies as follows, subject to appropriations by Congress."

The DBM said its recommended amendment will authorize government agencies to use available funds under the reenacted budget.

"This amendment will authorize government agencies to utilize available appropriations under the reenacted budget in the meantime, to meet the funding requirements of the salary adjustments, subject to existing budgeting, accounting, and auditing rules and regulations," DBM said.

The budget department reiterated its appeal to lawmakers to settle their differences on the 2019 budget "as soon as possible," to end fiscal uncertainty and to be able to start new projects.

The GAA’s passage was primarily delayed by the House, where the 2019 budget encountered a number of obstacles, including the discovery of alleged “pork” insertions by congressmen, the allegations of Camarines Sur 1st District Congressman Rolando Andaya Jr against Diokno, and the alleged adjustments made by the House on the bill after it was ratified. (READ: Can the budget be adjusted post-bicam? What Supreme Court says)

It remained unclear when the enrolled copy of the budget bill would be transmitted to Malacañang for the President's signature.

As a result, economic managers lowered their outlook for the economy, setting the country's  target Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth between 6% to 7%. The original target was 7% to 8% for this year.

The GDP growth target for 2020 was also adjusted downward to 6.5% to 7.5%. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.