UPON his arrival from a working visit to the United States, President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Friday morning signed an executive order (EO) that grants a pay increase to more than a million government workers and additional benefits to civilian and uniformed military personnel.
Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., who accompanied the President during his trip, made the announcement, explaining that the EO provides for the implementation of the first of the four tranches under the proposed 2015 Salary Standardization Law (SSL) Law or SSL 4 that Congress failed to enact.
“President Aquino has signed an executive order ‘Modifying the Salary Schedule for Civilian Government Personnel and Authorizing the Grant of Additional Benefits for both Civilian and Military and Uniformed Personnel’… Authority to implement the first tranche is given in RA [Republic Act] 10717 [or the 2016 General Appropriations Act or GAA]which provides a budget of P57.9 billion,” Coloma said.
“The President approved and signed the EO upon his arrival this morning from his participation in the Special Asean-US Summit and a working visit in Los Angeles, California,” he added.
In January, the proposed law hit a snag after the bicameral conference committee failed to iron out differences in the Senate and House versions of the measure.
In particular, both panels did not agree on the proposal to increase the monthly pension of about 1.53 million retired government personnel, which Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th sought.
Trillanes’ counterpart in the House, Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, claimed that the inclusion of the retirees’ monthly pension will double the amount of the adjustment and give the people concerned false hopes because the government simply lacks funds.
The senator maintained he was willing to compromise by putting on the line “subject to the availability of funds” in the indexation provision.
This way, Trillanes, pensioners will be entitled to a hike if and when funds are ready for dispensation.
The House version is fully funded under the approved P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016, while the Senate version would need additional funds because of the inclusion of the increase in the pensions.
The EO signed by Aquino has a retroactive effect because the GAA is already being implemented.
The President himself was adamant in including the pension hike for retired military and police personnel based on the “indexation” of salaries and wages of military personnel that started during the time of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
Unlike in other agencies and the private sector that have a pension system, Aquino explained that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police have none.
He said a military officer who retired in 1994, for example, has been receiving a monthly pension of P16,000.
Because of indexation, according to him, any increase in the salaries of active military personnel will automatically adjust the pension of retirees.
“His pension since April 1994 is P16,192.50. His pension in December 2015 because of indexation will reach P86,062.50. So, from P16,000 it becomes P86,000. And this is for the Armed Forces alone,” he explained.
“For the police, one who retired in March 2004 receives a monthly pension of P28,758.11. In December 2015, his pension will reach P77,631.42. The increase is P48,873.31 or 169.95 percent. From what I understand, when one entered the service, it is promised that once he retired he will receive a percentage of his basic salary as pension,” the President said
If the indexation would be followed, he added, pension payments will reach P43 billion while salary hikes will stand only at P39.5 billion.
“Of course, the active will ask, ‘Is that reasonable? We still the ones who dodge bullets and in danger but why do we receive lower pay?’” Aquino said.
“To ensure that the compensation structure of government personnel is comparable with the prevailing rates in the private sector, thereby attracting and retaining competent and committed civil servants, the existing Compensation and Position Classification System (CPCS) is hereby revised or updated to conform with the following:
a) raise the minimum salary for Salary Grade I from the current rate of P9,000 to P11,068 to make it even more competitive with the market rates;
b) bring the compensation of government personnel closer to their private counterparts to at least 70 percent of the median of the market for all salary grades;
c) eliminate overlaps in between salary grade allocations of government personnel to recognize differences in duties and responsibilities of the position;
d) maximize the net take-home pay of government personnel through the inclusion of additional benefits; and
e) strengthen the performance-based incentive system in recognition of government personnel who play a greater role and carry a heavier responsibility in attaining performance targets and delivering results,” Coloma explained.
“For the military and uniformed personnel, the compensation adjustment strategy shall be aligned with the objective of mitigating the fiscal crisis building up in their pension system and pursuing the pension reform,” he said.