Recto to bicam: Don't scrap Magna Carta benefits under SSL IV

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto is urging the bicameral conference committee to revisit a provision in the proposed Salary Standardization Law IV (SSL IV) that threatens to repeal the Magna Carta benefits of scientists, social and health workers, and other government employees.

"There is a tempest brewing in the public sector on the issue of the removal of Magna Carta benefits. I hope we can find ways on how this can be averted from becoming a full-blown storm. I am optimistic that a win-win solution will be found to the satisfaction of all parties,” Recto said on Thursday, January 21.

He is referring to Section 8 of the Senate and House-approved versions of the SSL IV, which seeks to increase the salaries of government employees.

Section 8 defines Magna Carta benefits as “the benefits authorized for specific officials and employees under Magna Carta laws that may be categorized in the Total Compensation Framework in accordance with the guidelines, rules and regulations to be issued by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).”

"In other words, existing Magna Carta allowances may be considered part of the increases authorized under SSL IV. It means that Magna Carta benefits may be folded into the new salary rate," Recto explained.

The bill tasks the DBM to determine which Magna Carta benefits to retain or scrap. 

While the DBM is expected to coordinate with agencies considered, the SSL IV also removes the power of “consultative councils, departments and officials previously authorized to issue the implementing rules and regulations of Magna Carta benefits.”

Section 20 of SSL IV  also states that Magna Cartas inconsistent with the bill “are hereby repealed, amended, or modified accordingly.”

According to Recto, SSL IV, in effect, would amend the following:

As an example, Recto said that 99% of the science department's personnel will get a pay cut instead of a salary increase on the first year of implementation of  SSL IV, if the bicameral committee does not revise Section 8.

New provision suggested

Recto has already written Senate committee on civil service and government reorganization chair, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, and other Senate conferees to the bicameral committee to insert the following provision in the SSL IV:

"Nothing in this act shall be interpreted to reduce, diminish or, in any way, alter the benefits provided for in existing laws on magna carta benefits for specific officials and employees in government, regardless of whether said benefits have been already received or have yet to be implemented."

He also suggested that from mere coordination, the DBM be mandated to “jointly” work with the agencies in determining the qualifications, conditions, and rates in granting of Magna Carta benefits under the SSL IV.

He recalled a provision in the earlier version of the bill, “which provided that SSL III shall not reduce, diminish or in any way alter the benefits provided by the Magna Cartas."

"I am calling on the Bicam to consider retaining this," Recto said. 

Section 8 threatens S&T

Concerned groups from the science community said on Thursday they support SSL IV but like Recto, they oppose Section 8. (READ: Science, tech 'key to PH competitiveness’)

“The science community and science advocates worked hard for years for the passage of RA 8439. Its implementation is one way of sustaining and maintaining necessary talent and manpower for S&T, (science and technology),” said Alyansa ng mga Grupong Haligi ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Mamamayan (AGHAM) president Angelo Palmones.

In a survey done by the Department of Science and Technology, 4,850 or 88.42% of the 5,485 S&T workforce will not feel the effects of the salary increase.

Philippine Weathermen Employee Association president Ramon Agustin also said Section 8 is a “threat to the economic well-being” of all science and technology workers. 

“The law (RA 8439) has been in existence since 1998 but was only funded through the GAA only recently but now on the verge of returning back to the old days when we virtually begged for funding. We cannot afford to go back to these dark past. We will absolutely oppose this provision to protect our rights,” said Agustin.

Joy Lascano, S&T Information Institute Employees Association president, agreed.

“[Section 8] is proof that not the entire government recognizes and truly understood the value of science and technology in contributing to the Philippine economy through several programs that are geared towards uplifting the local industry competitiveness, increasing the number of S&T human capital, improving our agriculture sector, and our efforts in disaster mitigation to name a few," he said.

Magna Carta benefits 'shall not be repealed'

In a statement on Monday, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the Magna Carta benefits of government workers "shall not be repealed" in the SSL IV.

"There is no provision in the proposed law that would diminish or remove the existing Magna Carta benefits of our government personnel. In fact, [SSL IV] – as in the previous SSL III – recognizes the Magna Carta benefits as among the authorized incentives in the total compensation framework," said Abad.

According to him, the SSL IV "formalizes" the role of the DBM, in coordination with agencies like the DOST, Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Education,  to issue implementing guidelines "that will spell out the conditions for the granting of the Magna Carta benefits as it has been currently performing."

Abad added that it is part of the DBM's mandate to develop policies and guidelines on compensation as well as to maintain a unified compensation and position classification system.

“As such, we affirm and support these laws that would ensure our government personnel would receive the proper and just compensation and benefits for their hard work," he said. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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