By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
A Senate panel on Monday pushed for higher wages and more benefits for barangay officials and workers.
Among the proposed benefits for barangay officials and watchmen, aside from fixed salaries, are allowances, retirement benefits, insurance coverage, as well as medical and dental coverage.
The proposal to increase the salaries and benefits of barangay workers was pushed Monday during the hearing on proposals for the establishment of a Magna Carta for Barangays before the Senate Committee on Local Government.
At least nine bills have been filed in Senate seeking to recognize the role of barangays and raise the salaries and incentives for its leaders and workers.
Senator Francis Tolentino, committee chairman, said the Senate is expected to prioritize the measure since it was mentioned by President Duterte in his fourth State of the Nation Address last July.
But before the bills hurdle the chamber, the committee would still have to reconcile the various suggestions on who should be covered by the benefits, and how much should barangay officials actually receive.
A more critical challenge for the panel would be to determine the funding source for these benefits.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who filed his version of a Magna Carta for barangay officials said the government needs at least P116 billion a year to fund the fixed salaries of the leaders of the country’s over 42,000 barangays.
His computation was based on the Bureau of Local Government Finance and his Senate Bill No. 366, which proposes a salary grade level (SGL) 12 for barangay captains; SGL 10 for Sangguniang Barangay (SB) members; and SGL 8 for barangay secretaries and treasurers.
Gatchalian said that while 50 percent of municipalities and 90 percent of cities can afford the P2.7-million annual salary fund for their barangay officials, poor villages, on the other hand, will not be able to pay for fixed wages.
He estimated the deficiencies to amount to about P60 billion. The amount does not include the allowances proposed for barangay watchmen as he proposed in his bill.
Some of the bills proposed that the funds needed for the implementation of the measure be sourced from the annual General Appropriations Act.
Others, meanwhile, proposed to use the internal revenue allotment (IRA), now called the national tax allotment, of local government units under the Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code.
Tolentino said there were also proposals to tap the government’s collections in real property taxes, as well as in excise tax for tobacco products.
Representatives of Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Department of Budget and Management said during the hearing that they will submit to the panel the positions of their respective agencies on the funding sources proposed for the barangay Magna Carta bills.
Officials in the hearing stressed the need to raise the wages and benefits of barangay leaders and workers.
Philippine Councilors League chairman Danilo Dayanghirang said the Magna Carta for Barangays is long overdue, saying the lack of financial support from the government gives barangay officials an “elbow room” for corruption.
According to Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas-National Capital Region president and Barangay Tumana, Marikina chairman Ziffred Ancheta, a barangay captain in a first-class city currently earns P25,500 monthly; while councilors, Sangguniang Kabataan chairman, barangay secretaries and treasurers receive P19,000 monthly.
He said salaries of barangay tanods, on the other hand, depend on the availability of funds of the villages. Some tanods receive an average of P7,000 per month, while some in poorer villages get P5,000 quarterly.
Ancheta also appealed to senators to include benefits for barangay health workers and volunteers such as street sweepers, in the proposed Magna Carta.