THE House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to “rightsize” the bureaucracy, in light of devolution and the contracting out of some government services to the private sector.

During Tuesday’s plenary session, 292 legislators voted in favor of the measure. The three-person Makabayan Bloc — Deputy Minority Leader and Party-list Rep. France L. Castro, Assistant Minority Leader and Party-list Rep. Arlene D. Brosas, and Party-list Rep. Raoul Danniel A. Manuel — voted no. Zero members abstained. 

House Bill No. 7240 or the National Government Rightsizing Act, grants the President the authority to restructure agencies controlled by the Executive branch.

The bill empowers the President to streamline or eliminate functions, programs, and projects “that could be better carried out or undertaken by the private sector or which have already been devoted to LGUs (local government units).”

The bill also detailed the retirement benefits and separation incentives for government employees that will be affected by the restructuring.

A government employee with between five and 11 years will receive the equivalent of half salary based on basic pay for every year of service, with entitlements escalating to the highest tier of one and a quarter months’ salary for every year of service for those at work for 31 years and above.

If signed into law, the restructuring will be carried out within three years.

The restructuring will affect departments, bureaus, offices, commissions, boards, councils, government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) not covered by GOCC Governance Act of 2011, and their attached agencies. LGUs may also restructure their operations depending on their financial capacity.

Civil servants not covered by the bill are teachers, those in medical and health-related positions, and military and uniformed personnel.

Jose Sonny G. Matula, president of the Federation of Free Workers, said via Viber, “It is crucial to ensure that equity and the welfare of public sector employees are not neglected. Their voices must have a forum to be heard but there is none in the bill.”

A Committee on Rightsizing the Executive Branch will be created to review and study roles, functions, and manpower levels. The Executive Secretary will chair the committee, while the Budget Secretary will serve as vice-chair.

Mr. Matula called for the inclusion of at least three representatives from public sector unions, with at least one of them a woman.

Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman noted that trimming the government workforce by 5% would save P14.8 billion.

In a statement, the Budget department said that the resulting savings “may be used to fund priority projects such as much-needed infrastructure, social services, programs in the health sector, agriculture, among others.”

Ms. Brosas, who turned in one of the no votes, told the plenary that she prefers that the savings generated be used to reduce government debt, and warned against the diversion of savings due to corruption.

The bill is one of the House’s priority measures for the year. President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has expressed support for the program, even after campaigning on a promise to fill 180,000 vacancies in government and elevate workers engaged on a job order basis to regular status at both national and local government levels. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz