DBM insists salary increase of gov’t workers should await 2019 budget

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Benjamin E. Diokno
File photo of Budget Sec. Benjamin E. Diokno -- BW

THE DEPARTMENT of Budget and Management (DBM) said it is not authorized to release the fourth round of government salary increases under a re-enacted budget amid pressure from legislators.

In a news conference on Monday, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno maintained the DBM’s position that the 2019 budget will trigger the release of salary increases under the Salary Standardization Law.

House Majority Leader Rolando G. Andaya, Jr. has asked the Supreme Court to issue a writ of mandamus to compel the Budget department to release the funds.

“We welcome it so that the issue will be solved once and for all. There’s a difference in his interpretation… to them it’s a mandamus case,” Mr. Diokno said.

“We have to wait for the passage of the 2019 General Appropriations Act. (GAA) Otherwise, we do not have legal basis for the implementation of the fourth tranche,” he added.

Executive Order No. 201, which provides for the compensation schedule of civilian personnel, applies “subject to appropriations by Congress.”

Both chambers failed to ratify the 2019 budget before the end of 2018, which automatically reenacts the 2018 budget — meaning no new projects or programs can be funded.

The budget was delayed over criticism of the shift to a cash-based appropriations scheme, as well as alleged illegal “insertions” that favored certain districts and families.

Mr. Andaya led the attack against the cash-based budget system and the supposed budget insertions.

Asked what Mr. Diokno thinks of the House leader’s recent moves, he replied that he prefers not to speculate, but added that the current predicament could have been avoided if the legislative branch had acted upon the budget promptly.

“Many of this had not happened if Congress just approved the GAA. Approve the budget — that’s their priority. We should really avoid this reenacted budget,” he said.

The DBM also disputed claims by Mr. Andaya that the government can tap the miscellaneous personnel benefits fund (MPBF) in the 2018 budget to fund the salary hike.

“The amounts in the MPBF are for the 2018 or third tranche. And included in the MPBF is the pay increase for military and unformed personnel so that appropriation is specific for the third tranche and the first implementation of the base pay increase of military and uniformed personnel. It really can’t cover the fourth tranche,” DBM Assistant Secretary Myrna S. Chua said in the same briefing.

According to the DBM, about 1.7 million government workers are affected of the pause in the implementation of the fourth round of the salary increase.

But once the 2019 budget is signed into law, the DBM will implement it retroactively, paying the salary differential.

Mr. Diokno said that he still expects the 2019 budget to be ratified by Congress before the end of the month and enacted by February — before the high court even orders a ruling.

“As far as I can remember, they just ran out of time. There are some agencies that have not discussed budgets on the floor. There are six agencies remaining, and I don’t see any big problems along the way. It’s just a matter of time,” Mr. Diokno said. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan