BULACAN, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay said on Thursday, March 3, that if elected president, his "first priority" will be to give barangay officials fixed salaries and the same benefits as regular government employees.
The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) standard-bearer made the promise to supporters and local officials gathered at the San Rafael municipal gym, one of several campaign stops in his wife's home province.
In renewing the promise, which he had mentioned in public addresses since last year, Binay explained that it can be done since the "underspending" government has shown that there are enough funds for it.
“Kay Jojo Binay, ang unang priority ko, kayong mga barangay officials ay magiging suwelduhan na. Hindi na ho kayo magiging honorarium at allowance (Jojo Binay’s priority is to make barangay officials salaried employees. You will no longer just receive honorarium and allowance)," he said.
The Vice President told the crowd that he would always argue with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on why village executives do not receive the same compensation and benefits as regular government workers, but the government just "did not want to spend."
“E taun-taon nag-aaway po kami. Bakit? E ayaw ho talagang gumasta. (We fought every year. Why? Because they do not want to spend). Savings, savings, savings! My God!)” said Binay.
The form of compensation of barangay officials, however, is set by the Local Government Code of 1991; changing it would require an amendment of the law, which is being pushed in Congress. Barangay officials are entitled to an increase in honoraria if there is a general salary adjustment authorized by law, according to the Department of Budget and Management.
Binay, who has vowed to be a “spending executive,” plans to use government savings to raise the pay of barangay officials.
“'Saan manggagaling ang pera? Dun sa hindi ginastos! Ilalabas lang ho natin ‘yung savings na ‘yun (Where will the money come from? We will get it from the unused budget. We will just release those savings),” he said, drawing applause from the crowd all clad in the same blue shirt bearing his name.
Under the law, barangay chairmen get a P1,000 ($22.08) monthly honorarium, while councilors get P600 ($13.25) monthly honorarium. (READ: Perks of barangay officials)
These amounts could be adjusted according to the availability of funds, but can only be limited to salary grade 14 (P23,044 or $508.75) for barangay chairmen and salary grade 10 (P17,255 or $380.94) for the councilors.
While they receive at least P1,000 Christmas bonus, and other benefits including insurance coverage, medical care and free tuition in public schools for the officials and up to two of their legitimate children, village executives are not entitled to 13th month pay, and hazard duty pays, among others.
Binay made the speech at the start of his two-day campaign in Bulacan, the 6th richest in votes among provinces in the country with 1.64 million registered for the May polls.
He was accompanied by his running mate, Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan II, and UNA Senate bets Princess Jacel Kiram, Parañaque Councilor Alma Moreno, labor lawyer Allan Montaño, former Special Action Force chief Getulio Napeñas, and broadcaster Rey Langit.
Former Bulacan governor Roberto “Obet” Pagdanganan, a known Binay ally, believes the Vice President will “win big” in the province.
He said this is because the father of Binay’s wife, Elenita Sombillo Binay, was a former vice mayor of Angat, Bulacan. Pagdangan also called Elenita as “anak ng (daughter of) Bulacan.”
Pagdanganan said Bulacan’s relative proximity to Makati City, where Binay was mayor for 21 years, also made his provincemates aware of the benefits enjoyed by Makati residents.
“Alam nila ‘yung scholarship program. Alam nila na ‘pag nagkakasakit, libre ‘yung paggamot [sa Ospital ng Makati]. Alam nila ‘yung benefits ng senior citizens. So gusto nilang maranasan ‘yan ng Pilipino sa buong Pilipinas, hindi lamang sa Makati,” said Pagdanganan.
(They know about the scholarship program and that when people get sick, they get free medicines and services from the Ospital ng Makati. They know about the benefits for the senior citizens. They want the whole country to experience what Makati is experiencing.)
While the Vice President has been trumpeting his gains as Makati mayor, some of the programs implemented under his watch became controversial.
Meanwhile, Binay’s campaign spokesperson Rico Quicho said incumbent local officials, like Bulacan Third District Representative Lorna Silverio and San Rafael Mayor Cipriano Violago Jr are rallying support for the Vice President.
“Madalas po tayong pumupunta dito para rin po pakalasin ang ating political support. Ganun din po ang ating core support. Malakas po tayo dito sapagkat marami pong mga organization na patuloy pong nagtitiwala, nagmamahal at sumusuporta po kay Vice President Jojo Binay,” Quicho told reporters.
(We usually come here to increase our political support and core support. We are strong here because there are many organizations that continue to support and love Vice President Jojo Binay.)
How about the rest of UNA? According to Quicho, the same support can be expected by Honasan and UNA’s Senate bets in Bulacan.
“Sa aming partido, wala kaming iwanan. Lahat po ay sinusuportahan po natin. Lahat po ng kandidato mula kay [vice presidential candidate] Gringo Honasan , ganun din po sa ating mga senador e lahat po sila tinutulungan ni Vice President Binay at sila rin naman po ay itinataguyod din po nila ang pangangampanya ni Vice President Binay,” said Quicho.
(We don’t leave anyone behind in our party. We support everybody. Everyone, including vice presidential candidate Gringo Honasan and all our senatorial candidates, is being helped by Vice President Binay. They, in return, help campaign for the Vice President, too.)
While Binay is a strong contender for the presidency, the same cannot be said for his running mate and senatorial slate.
Honasan has repeatedly lagged behind in election surveys. Among the UNA senatorial candidates, only Sarangani Representative Manny Pacquiao is in the winners' circle, according to the latest pre-election surveys. – Rappler.com