President Benigno Aquino 3rd is the sole authority who can resurrect the half-dead proposed Salary Standardization Law (SSL) 4, which increases the salary of government workers.
Camarines Sur Rep. Rolanda Andaya, a member of the bicameral conference committee on clashing provisions of the House and Senate versions of the SSL 4, made the statement on Friday, two days after the House of Representatives and the Senate adjourned session without reaching an agreement on the pay hike.
The SSL 4 raises the salary of all government workers on top of granting them a 14th month pay, and provides the 606,000 state employees under Salary Grades 1 to 11 a tax-free 14th month pay and performance-based bonus.
Its passage, however, was derailed since the Senate contingent led by Sen. Antonio
Trillanes 4th had been insisting on increasing the pension rates of retired members of the military and police simultaneously with the salary hike for active government workers under the SSL 4.
The Senate’s pitch would need an additional P225 billion funding–an item that has no funding source.
“SSL is in coma. The President can bring it to life thru a presidential order. He can invoke the same powers that his predecessors did,” Andaya said.
The P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016 has earmarked P57.9 billion for the first tranche of the salary hike under the SSL 4.
“Any Executive Order[EO] that he will issue will just flesh out the spending authority that Congress is already given,” Andaya, a former secretary of the Department of Budget and Management, pointed out.
“The effectivity [of the EO] will expire at the end of the year [as will the budget itself]. It is just an interim measure so that government workers will enjoy the pay hike as stipulated in the SSL 4,” he said.
Andaya added that the SSL 4 should just be resubmitted to the next Congress to make the salary adjustment permanent because a sitting President has the power to adjust public sector workers’ compensation under the existing SSL and Presidential Decree 1597, which authorizes the President to grant fringe benefits to government employees.
In a separate interview, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the SSL 4 is not dead since Congress will still reconvene after the May 2016 presidential polls.
Belmonte added that he could only guarantee an EO since a quorum is unlikely because not all incumbent lawmakers will be reelected.
“The budget for that this year is P57.9 billion. In the meantime, I can assure you, the P57 billion will be released. It will be released in an EO,” he said.