THE HOME Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG) in a statement on Wednesday defended the pay raise for its officers and employees as “merely salary step increments to address years of inflation,” not salary increases which require approval from Malacañang.

The statement was in response to a report by the Commission on Audit which flagged P248.319 million in increases last year as illegal.

Quoting Secretary Eduardo D. del Rosario, chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and of Pag-IBIG Fund’s Board of Trustees, the statement said ‘the step increments are within the powers of its Board based on Pag-IBIG’s Compensation Plan. Since there was no increase in salary rates nor new benefits granted, Presidential approval is not required.”

“I want to assure the public that the grant of step increments in 2018 was proper, done according to the right process and, most importantly, was not excessive. We have only adjusted the salaries of Pag-IBIG Fund officers and employees to be, more or less, on the same level of SSL (Salary Standardization Law)-4, which is currently being received by employees of other government institutions. We would like to assure all, our members in particular, that we continue to adhere to the directive of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in safeguarding the workers’ fund,” Mr. del Rosario said in the statement.

For his part, Pag-IBIG Fund CEO Acmad Rizaldy P. Moti was quoted as saying, “The Board considered all bases when the step increments were granted in 2018. The intention behind the grant of step increments under the Compensation Plan of Pag-IBIG Fund was not to raise the salaries of officers and employees — but rather to maintain the purchasing power and value that they had in 2009 or 10 years ago when the Fund’s Compensation Plan was first adopted.”

Mr. Moti “clarified that the agency’s Board went through all the requisite processes and ensured that all conditions were met prior to the granting of the step increments,” the statement said.

“We have to put things into context here. The step increments were granted, in strict accordance with existing rules, to employees of the Pag-IBIG Fund who are occupying permanent positions. The members of the Board who approved the grant, which include myself, were not covered by the step increments because we are presidential appointees. The grant went to career employees and officers who worked hard in order to achieve record-breaking feats and made 2018 the best year ever for Pag-IBIG Fund,” Mr. Moti also said. — with Vince Angelo C. Ferreras