House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. on Monday filed a petition for mandamus before the Supreme Court that compels Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno to implement the salary increase of state workers.
In a press conference, Andaya said that over the weekend they have gathered over 50 government employees from the executive and legislative department to sign the petition.
The filing followed Diokno’s challenge to Andaya to sue him for insisting that the salary increase of government workers cannot be implemented as long as the 2019 national budget is still pending in Congress.
Diokno has said the release of the 2016 Salary Standardization Law (SSL) is unconstitutional in the absence of the passage of the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
The mandamus compels Diokno to release the funds intended for the 4th tranche increase and adjustments under the 2016 Salary Standardization Law (SSL).
However, Andaya said even if the budget is re-enacted the release of the salary increase is not a violation of the constitution because unlike in other countries, the re-enacted budget has a fund for the salary increase.
“It is only here in our country that there is a budget for an increase in salary unlike in other countries,” Andaya said.
Andaya revealed that there is a fund in the re-enacted budget of P100 billion which is more than enough to the salary increase of at least one million state workers because it only amount to P40 billion.
Andaya said what is unconstitutional is Diokno’s insistence that he cannot release the money because he wants the 2019 proposed budget passed first even without the review by Congress.
He said to end the debate about the issue, he decided, along with other state workers to call on the SC justices to set an oral argument and decide on the matter soon since the state workers should receive a salary increase on 15 January.
Diokno has said that if he didn’t adjust the salary of the workers by 15 January it’s better to sue him as there is no egal basis for it.
Andaya told reporters there is something about the re-enacted budget that will allow release of the money for the 4th tranche of salary increase which is the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) worth P99.45 billion.
He said the budget allotted for the increase in salary of the state workers is pegged at P42.71 billion.
The MPBF, according, to Andaya has been used on several occasions, through Executive Orders or Administrative orders, to augment budgetary requirements for personnel services.
This was the situation in 1999 when the president then signed an executive order to augment the police budget through the MPBF.
He said it happened also in 2018 when President Duterte approved a joint resolution by both houses of Congress to use the MPBF for the pay hike of cops and soldiers.
According to Diokno the MPBF only covers capital outlay and maintenance and other operating expenses, not personnel services. Diokno insists there is no provision in any existing law explicitly allowing the use of the MPBF.
The House majority floor leader hoped the Mandamus petition will be raffled off by 2 p.m. Monday for immediate hearing as the salary hike should be implemented by 15 January.
“We are already in the fourth tranche. The third tranche was given by Secretary Diokno. So I do not see the reason why he cannot give it this time around,” said Andaya.
“In simple words, if the debt of the government was paid every year, even without the new budget, why this small wage hike for the employees he cannot even find a way?” he added.
Andaya reiterated that the government is currently under the reenacted budget, in which he interpreted that it can be used for the increase of the government workers’ wage.
“Firstly, we have a budget. Let me correct that statement. We have a budget. It is called the reenacted budget and that budget is even bigger than this year’s proposed budget. So if you have bigger funds to spend than what was requested, why can’t you give it?” asked Andaya.
He further explained that the government now has two sources of funding: the current reenacted budget and the savings from the 2018 budget after President Rodrigo Duterte approved the extension of the life of the 2018 budget.
Meanwhile, Andaya slammed Diokno for blaming Congress for the delay in the passage of the 2019 GAA as the main reason why the fourth tranche will not be implemented.
“He should stop dictating to Congress on when it should pass the budget. We have the constitutional prerogative as to when we will pass the budget while he has the legal duty to implement the salary increase. He has no choice on whether he like it or not, he has to do it. The congress has the prerogative to take its time to pass or not a national budget,” Andaya said.
Andaya added that it is unconstitutional for the budget secretary to hold the salary increase because it is the right of the government workers to get the increase on 15 January. With Hananeel Bordey