Andaya asks SC to force Diokno to release gov't workers' pay hike

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 14) — House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya is asking the Supreme Court (SC) to compel Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to release the fourth tranche of the salary standardization law, despite the re-enactment of the 2018 budget.

A 27-page petition filed Monday by Andaya and 51 government employees said Diokno and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) "lawfully neglected the performance of ministerial acts" in not releasing the scheduled pay hikes for government workers this year.

"Secretary Diokno should not be allowed to arbitrarily dictate on when and how he will use the MPBF, using no particular standards, except his own whims and caprices as basis for his decision," they said.

The petitioners argued that the ₱99.45 billion miscellaneous personnel benefits funds (MPBF) may be used by the DBM to cover salary adjustments of government employees, which they estimate would cost the government ₱42.71 billion only.

They added that even if the DBM refuses to allot funds for the full ₱42.71 billion for the fourth tranche of salary adjustments, the Budget department could just allocate a quarter's worth of pay hikes as the 2019 budget may still be passed within the first quarter of the year.

Some senators have backed Andaya's position, including the Senate minority bloc which wants the upper chamber to express its view that the salary hikes for 2019 could be funded using the MPBF.

READ: Andaya 'lacks common sense' on 2019 budget for salary hike — Palace

But the DBM said it cannot use the MPBF for salary increases for government workers without Congress passing the 2019 budget.

"We need specific appropriations from Congress for the implementation of the fourth tranche of salary increase under EO (Executive Order) 201," Budget Assistant Secretary Myrna Chua said Monday in a press briefing after Andaya sued Diokno and the DBM.

EO No. 201 provides for the implementation schedule of salary hikes for government workers "subject to appropriations by Congress."

The same executive order also said that the funding for the additional salaries of employees under national government agencies would be sourced from the National Expenditure Program submitted to Congress for its approval.

But Andaya said Section 46 of the 2018 budget law allows the use of the MPBF since it says that the executive department could use funds for personnel services for the payment of personnel benefits and deficiencies in authorized personnel benefits.

The petitioners listed down the instances when the DBM used the MPBF to fund pay and allowance hikes of government workers and uniformed personnel, including the increase in the base pay of police and military personnel in 2018.

But the DBM said they could not use the MPBF to fund the fourth tranche of salary hikes, as there are no appropriations for it in the 2018 budget, which was re-enacted after Congress failed to pass the 2019 budget on time.

"I think many of these problems could have been avoided had Congress just approved the General Appropriations Act," Diokno said.

READ: Gov't workers to get 4th tranche of salary hike in February – Budget chief

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo backed Diokno's position, saying that since the budget is re-enacted, there could be no source of funding for the fourth tranche of pay hikes for government workers.

However, petitioners said that the re-enactment of the 2018 budget generates savings which can be realigned by the executive to fund pay hikes for government workers.

The DBM said they are readying to respond to the case filed in the SC, which they expect to ask them to respond to the petition.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario and Xave Gregorio contributed to this report.