Press Release
February 6, 2016


Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto today advised Malacanang to consult with leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives before finalizing its plan to adjust unilaterally the salary of government workers this year without an enabling law.

Recto welcomed the recent decision of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to adopt his proposal for executive action on the implementation of the first tranche of salary adjustments for state workers as spelled out in the proposed Salary Standardization Law (SSL) IV.

"With the bicameral committee still deadlocked on SSL IV, it is but proper for the Executive Department to step in and ensure that our government workers will receive the pay hike contained in the 2016 national budget," the senator said.

But Recto cautioned Malacanang against unilateral implementation of the pay adjustments without consultation with Congress leaders, saying "points agreed upon during the legislative deliberations must be included in any presidential order implementing the pay hike."

Foremost of these issues, he said, is non-reduction of so-called Magna Carta benefits currently being enjoyed by government workers.

"Both the Senate and the House invested so much time and effort in polishing the (SSL4) bill that it is just proper that improvements agreed upon be incorporated into whatever order the President will issue on salary standardization," Recto pointed out.

"It can still be a unilateral act but consultative in so far as the process is concerned. The institution that appropriated the money must be consulted by the co-equal branch that will spend it," he added.

"Congressional leaders are just a phone call or a text away. Pwede mag-Skype pa nga," he said.

Recto added, "no harm will be done if the DBM will also solicit the view of heads of departments whose employees might be affected by the vague language of a few sections of the proposed SSL IV."

"If the entire EO will just be copy-pasted from the original bill, then baka maraming empleyado na mag-tampo," he said. Last Monday, Recto appealed to Malacanang to consider drafting a presidential order on salary standardization as "Plan B" after Congress adjourned for a four-month election break without passing the SSL IV.

Recto said that Congress has already appropriated the amount of P57.9 billion, representing the cost of the first annual installment of SSL IV.

"By issuing an executive order, the President will be merely implementing a program which, in principle, Congress has consented to," he said. Today, Malacanang announced that the DBM is preparing its recommendations to President Benigno S. Aquino III on the possible implementation of the first tranche of salary adjustments for government workers, as provided for in the proposed SSL IV bill.

"A total of P57.9 billion appropriation is included in the General Appropriations Act of 2016 and this will fully cover the first tranche," said Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma. "DBM will include a similar item in the proposed National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2017, to cover the second tranche."

The proposed NEP for 2017 will be turned over to the next administration, he added.

In a separate statement, DBM Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad said, "The Executive has options within its power to effect the proposed compensation adjustment."

Abad cited Section 13 of Presidential Decree No. 985 and Item 17 of Congress Joint Resolution No. 4, s. 2009, authorizing the President to periodically revise or update, upon the recommendation of the DBM, the government's Compensation and Position Classification System.

Based on these laws, Abad said the President may effect a compensation adjustment that is still consistent with the compensation adjustment strategy under the proposed SSL of 2015.

Recto noted that despite the deadlock in the House-Senate negotiation on the proposed government pay hike, there was "tripartite agreement" on a provision guaranteeing that so-called Magna Carta benefits of government workers will not be taken away.

The provision, which will form part of Section 8 of SSL IV, states: "Nothing in this Act shall be interpreted to reduce, diminish, or alter benefits provided for in existing laws on Magna Carta benefits."

This provision, Recto said, has the support of the DBM. "This was sent to them and they concurred."

Recto explained that this clause "effectively inoculates Magna Carta benefits from being erased or eroded. It removes all ambiguities in the measure that can be interpreted as a pay cut, rather than a pay hike."

Recto had earlier written to the House and Senate conferees to propose an amendment that "nothing in the SSL IV 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."

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