A MARTIAL LAW decree issued by President Ferdinand Marcos may be used by Marcos-hating President BS Aquino The Last to provide the long-awaited general pay hike for underpaid national government employees.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, Speaker Sonny Belmonte, Sen. Ralph Recto and House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales 2nd all urged BS Aquino to issue an executive order after the House and the Senate adjourned without passing the fourth Salary Standardization Law or SSL4.
They didn’t mention, however, that the only way Aquino can bypass Congress on the pay hike is by invoking his power under Presidential Decree 1597 promulgated by Marcos on June 11, 1978.
This PD authorizes the president to grant allowances, honoraria and other fringe benefits to government employees without any enabling law from the legislature. Drilon, Belmonte, Recto and Gonzales obviously believe that this power under PD 1597 can be expanded to include raising government salaries even without legislation.
It’s beneath my understanding why Drilon, Belmonte, Recto and Gonzales would urge the President to make a move that mocks the legislature. PD 1597 is one of the martial law decrees that contributed to the continuing erosion of Congress’s inherent Power of the purse so why are they exhorting BS Aquino to use it?
It’s also beyond belief that they continue to demonize Marcos and martial law while merrily urging Aquino to exercise virtual martial law powers in bypassing Congress. Why are they so complicit in the clipping of legislative powers and prerogatives by the already powerful Executive?
Oh yes, they did cite Republic Act 6758, the first SSL as granting similar powers to the president. This RA merely copied a martial law concoction. In fact, Section 21 of SSL1 states that all provisions of PD 1597 not inconsistent with the Act shall continue to be in full force and effect.
And yes, Drilon, Belmonte, Recto and Gonzales can hide behind the fact that several presidents after the lifting of martial law had ignored Congress by issuing executive orders on salaries and perks of civil servants. Well, several wrongs don’t make another one right.
President Fidel V. Ramos invoked PD 1597 to increase the monthly allowances of civil servants by P500. President Erap Estrada cited the PD in increasing the subsistence allowance of uniformed personnel without seeking authority from Congress.
One of the four issuances of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is most controversial. In March 2007, she issued Administrative Order 144, granting a ten-percent increase in the pay of civil servants, and a P1,000 increase in the monthly pay of uniformed personnel and policemen. What made this controversial was the fact that such increases were already included in the proposed 2007 national budget that Congress still had to pass. PGMA’s budget secretary, now Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. of Camarines Sur justified her unilateral act by saying it’s authorized under PD 1597.
Now, BS Aquino The Last is being urged to issue an executive order to update SSL3. It will be ironic if he’ll seek help from a martial law decree to provide relief to underpaid civil servants. Martial law is gone but this decree that emasculates Congress’s supposedly inherent Power of the Purse still holds sway and is being endorsed by men with nothing but harsh words on martial law
Of course, this need not happen if only the House and the Senate were more diligent with their work than with preparing for the May 2016 election. Isn’t it a shame to have a Congress that gives higher priority to politics than to the needs of the people.