DBM opposes BIR exemption from salary standardization

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Will a higher salary finally stop tax collectors from accepting bribes?

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) opposed the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)'s proposal to be exempted from the Salary Standardization Law (SSL).

In a Senate hearing today, the DBM said it would be costly to exempt the BIR from SSL -- which sets the pay scale of government employees -- as it would need an additional P20 billion to to cover more than 21,000 positions.

The DBM said it is already improving the pay of government employees through regular SSL increases.

The SSL is an executive order (EO) signed by former president Benigno Aquino on February 2016 which aims to "bring the compensation of government personnel closer to their private counterparts."

Also known as EO No. 201 series of 2016, the SSL raised salary grades depending on the employee's rank. It added benefits as well to maximize take home pay.

Senators Sonny Angara, Juan Miguel Zubiri and Ralph Recto each filed a bill backing the BIR proposal.

The three bills recognized underemployment in the tax bureau, noting there are currently 11,656 vacant plantilla positions.

The senators say a high salary will attract more qualified personnel, encourage employees to stay, and discourage corruption.

"Based on looking at just one position, Accountant 1, the salary of an accountant in the public sector, it's already equivalent to at least 83 percent of the salaries of the private sector," said DBM director Ryan Lita.

The total compensation, which includes the midyear and performance-based bonuses, will approximate the compensation of those in the private sector, he added.

Meanwhile, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) said a performance-based pay increase is an option.

"I would say one general increase for everybody and one based on meritocracy based on the expertise or experience of the person," said Alex Cabrera, MAP member.

CNN Philippines digital producer Yvette Morales contributed to this report.