Press Release
January 21, 2016

Scrapping of Magna Carta benefits in SSL might trigger protests - Recto

Instead of a pay hike, 99 percent of Department of Science and Technology (DOST) personnel will get a pay cut on the first year of the implementation of the proposed Salary Standardization Law IV (SSL IV), due to a provision there which threatens to repeal all Magna Carta for scientists, engineers, researchers and other science and technology (S&T) personnel benefits.

On the second year of SSL IV's effectivity, 97 percent of the DOST workforce may still be punished with pay cuts.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto disclosed the above examples in appealing to Congress "to revisit a provision in the SSL IV which could erase so-called Magna Carta benefits, not just of scientists, but of social workers, health workers and other government employees."

Both the House and the Senate had passed the Malacañang-proposed SSL IV. But because their respective versions differ from each other, a Bicameral Conference Committee (Bicam) will meet next week to reconcile the differences.

"Siguro tingnan ng Bicam kung ano ang epekto ng maaaring pagtanggal ng mga Magna Carta benefits ng mga social workers, nurses, doctors, scientists natin sa pamahalaan," Recto said.

"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 added.

Section 8 of the bill passed by the House and the Senate states that "these are 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.

And who will determine what Magna Carta benefits will be scrapped?

According to the bill, it is solely the DBM, Recto said.

While Section 8 of the draft SSL IV tasks the DBM to coordinate with agencies concerned, it also removes the power of "consultative councils, departments and officials previously authorized to issue the Magna Carta benefits," Recto explained.

This intent is reiterated in Section 20 which states that Magna Carta laws inconsistent with the SSL IV provisions "are hereby repealed, amended or modified accordingly."

Specifically deemed amended are: RA 4670, the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers; RA 7305, the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers; RA 8439, the Magna Carta for Scientists, Engineers, Researchers and Other S&T Personnel; and RA 9443, the Magna Carta for Social Workers.

Under the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, teachers assigned in hardship stations shall get a hazard pay equivalent to at least 25% of their monthly pay.

RA 7305, on the other hand, grants public health workers "on call" pay, night-shift differential, subsistence allowance, remote assignment and hazard allowance, among others.

Government scientists and researchers are entitled to hazard pay, longevity pay, royalties from their invention, as prescribed by RA 8439.

Magna Carta for Public Social Workers grants frontline DSWD personnel "on call, hazard, and overtime pay" plus subsistence and transportation allowance, to name just a few.

Recto has written to the Senate conferees to the Bicam to consider inserting a provision in the SSL IV which calls for the "non-diminution of benefits currently received under existing Magna Carta laws."

In his letter to Sen. Sonny Trillanes, chair of the Senate Committee on Civil Service and Government Reorganization, and head of the contingent, Recto urged the insertion of the following section:

"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."

From mere coordination, Recto also proposed that the DBM "jointly" work with the agencies in determining qualifications, conditions and rates in the grant of SSL IV and Magna Carta benefits.

Recto recalled that SSL III contained a provision "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.

A study made by DOST employees said the scrapping of Magna Carta benefits will result in 98.72 percent of S&T personnel getting pay reduction in the first year of SSL IV's implementation.

"Kasi kung scientist ka at sweldo mo, halimbawa, P24,000 and you get P 8,000 in benefits, so you gross P32,000. Pero kung tanggal ang benefits at ang sweldo mo itataas sa P30,000, may kaltas ka nga," Recto said.

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