Congress approves pay hike for state employees

VOTING 187-5 with zero abstention, the House of Representatives on Wednesday, December 18, approved on third and final reading the bill seeking to increase the salaries of government employees, including teachers and nurses, by an average of 23 percent over the next four years.

Those who voted "No" included ACT Teachers Party-list Representative France Castro, who lamented during the plenary debates Monday, December 16, 2019, that the programmed increase for teachers is not enough.

The House bill was approved via nominal voting two days after President Rodrigo Duterte was reported to have certified it as urgent and the Senate approved its version on third and final reading.

Senate Bill 1219, which was filed on December 9, 2019, was approved on Monday, December 16, 2019 with 21 affirmative votes, zero negative and one abstention.

The first tranche of the increase, as contained in House Bill No. 5712 and SB 1219 or Salary Standardization Law 5, already has an allocation of P34.2 billion under the 2020 General Appropriations Act, which is awaiting Duterte's signature.

The funds will come from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund of the 2020 national budget.

A total of 1.395 million government employees will benefit from the salary adjustment, said Davao City Third District Representative Isidro Ungab, chairman of the committee on appropriations, in his sponsorship speech Monday, December 16, 2019.

Included in the P34.2-billion budget is about P3 billion for nurses in compliance with a Supreme Court ruling in October 2019 that upheld Section 32 of Republic Act 9173, or the Philippine Nursing Act.

This law provides that "the minimum base pay of nurses working in public health institutions shall not be lower than salary grade 15." Government nurses are currently assigned salary grades 10 or 11, with base pay of P19,233 to P20,754 a month.

With a salary grade 15, nurses will be receiving a monthly base pay of P32,053 to P34,801 by January 1, 2020, based on both SB 1219 and HB 5712.

By January 1, 2023, upon the full implementation of SSL 5, nurses will get P36,619 to P39,367 a month.

Teachers, meanwhile, will receive an increase ranging from 24 percent to 30 percent over the next four years under SSL 5. Teachers 1, 2 and 3 are assigned salary grades 11, 12 and 13. Under HB 5712, an employee with salary grade 11, step 1 will receive a base pay of P27,000 upon full implementation by 2023 from the current P20,754 per month, or an increase of 30.1 percent.

Teachers will also receive P2,000 personnel economic relief allowance (Pera) on top of their base pay.

An entry-level teacher, Teacher 1, will thus receive a total of P29,754 by January 1, 2023, Ungab said.

A Teacher 2 and other employees with salary grade 12, step 1 will receive a monthly base pay of P29,165 by 2023 from the current P22,938, a 27.1 percent raise. Teachers under this salary grade will get a total of P31,165 including Pera. A Teacher 3 and other employees with salary grade 13, step 1 will get a 24.1 percent increase to P31,320 by 2023 from the current P25,232. With the P2,000 Pera, a Teacher 3 will get a total of P33,320 a month.

Castro of ACT Teachers Party-list and Bayan Muna Party-list Ferdinand Gaite, during the plenary debates Monday, lamented that the teachers' entry-level basic pay will still be lower than the salary of a police patrolman by 2023.

A police patrolman currently receives P29,668, following the hefty increase granted to military and uniformed personnel in January 2018.

Ungab said, however, the salaries of teachers and police officers are not comparable.

"There is no distortion since the nature of duties and responsibilities of civilian personnel (are) very different from those of military and uniformed personnel. These jobs are, therefore, not comparable," Ungab said. (MVI/SunStar Philippines)