By Ellson Quismorio
ACT-Teachers Party-List Rep. France Castro on Thursday gave the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) a piece of her mind regarding what she described as “measly” allocation for the proposed new Salary Standardization Law (SSL) that would cover the promised salary hike for public school teachers.
The Minority Bloc member did so during the first day of House hearings on the proposed P4.1-trillion National Expenditure Program (NEP) or the proposed national budget for 2020.
On deck before the Appropriations Committee Thursday were officials of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), composed of the DBM, Department of Finance (DOF), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
Castro, in her interpellation of DBM Acting Secretary Wendel Avisado, expressed her issue over the supposed amount of work the House of Representatives has to do with the new SSL despite the promised inputs of the previous DBM leadership.
According to the lady solon, former DBM secretary Ben Diokno said in January that they would create a study regarding the level of the proposed salary increase for government employees, including public school teachers.
This was following the implementation of Executive Order (EO) 201, which provided for the fourth tranche compensation adjustment for civilian government personnel scheduled in 2019, despite the reenacted budget at the start of the year. Castro had earlier likened this tranche to “loose change,” thus the need for a significant pay hike for government workers.
“Results from the study are expected to be delivered…before the end of June this year. Consequently the DBM will come out with a proposed salary schedule by the third quarter of 2019,” Castro said, citing Diokno.
“So nag-eexpect tayo na mayroon nang salary schedule…Pero ang sinasabi kanina ng DBM, iyon po bang salary schedule na binabanggit ninyo, the [House] will determine or the Congress will determine on how to distribute yung sinasabi niyong P31 billion
(So we’re expecting that there’s already a salary schedule…But based on what the DBM said a while ago, it is the House or Congress that would determine how the P31 billion would be distributed)?” she asked.
“Sabi ng DBM last year, kayo gagawa ng survey, kayo gagawa ng matrix, ng schedule, etc. Pero bakit ngayon yung P31 billion na napakaliit ay pinapasa niyo sa [House] para gumawa ng schedule (The DBM said last year that it will carry out the survey, create the matrix, the schedule, etc. But why are you passing on to the House the task of creating a salary schedule based on the measly P31 billion)?” Castro further asked Avisado.
Castro went on to comment that the teachers’ salary hike – which had been promised by President Duterte – was among the few “positive” things to come out of the administration.
“Pwede rin po ba ipadala sa amin yung kopya ng survey na pinanggalingan ng P31 billion? Parang di rin kasi ako makapaniwala sa ganung estimate ng DBM. Mahalagang makita rin natin kung paano nila na-determine ito (Can we also be sent a copy of the survey that was used to come up with the P31 billion? I just can’t believe the DBM’s estimate. It’s also important for us to learn how this was determined),” she further said in assailing the figure.
Digong’s quick action
For his part, Avisado highlighted President Duterte’s “quick action” to the clamor of government employees by already including appropriations to the envisioned SSL in the 2020 NEP.
Regarding Castro’s issues with the salary hike allocation, Avisado underscored that it’s the lawmakers who ultimately decide on the key points of the SSL, not the DBM.
“Patuloy pong magsisikap ang Executive department in consultation with the other agencies of government, particularly the Department of Finance, dahil sila naman po talaga yung tagahanap ng pera. Tapos inilalaan po yan base po sa pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan sang-ayon din sa development priorities na sinasaad ng NEDA (The Executive department will continue to work on it in consultation with the other agencies of government particularly the Department of Finance since it is them who raises funds.
The funds will then be allocated based on the people’s needs as well as the development priorities identified by NEDA),” he said.
“Kaya kami po, tagagawa lang po kami (As for us, we just prepare the budget). We’re just preparing the budget in accordance with the guidelines,” he said of the DBM.
“Hindi po DBM ang makapangyarihan dito. Bagkus, the last say really is in the hands of Congress dahil kayo po talaga ang magbabalangkas sa batas (The DBM doesn’t call the shots. The last say is really in the hands of Congress since you’re the ones who author laws),” Avisado said.