By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — On Fridays, Naneth Pascual, an employee of the Department of Agrarian Reform, said most of the rank and file employees of the government agency hop from one table to another, hoping that they could borrow money from their colleagues so they could make ends meet for the coming weekends.
“This is the situation that government employees are in for a long time already. Our take home pay could no longer take us home anymore,” Pascual told Bulatlat.com.
Pascual said rank and file government employees depend on bonuses and incentives, such as when a Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) has been signed, to augment their very meager salary.
A government employee from the National Housing Authority Remy Santos said she has colleagues who experience difficulties sending their children to school, especially when their bonuses are delayed, or worse, not given at all. “We would file loans to every government agency we can ask from. It is expensive to send children to school.”
For Pascual and Santos, the limit placed on their CNA incentive is another blow to their coping mechanisms. Both attended the protest action and the filing of a temporary restraining order before the Supreme Court to put a stop to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s plan to impose a cap on incentives.
In the 32-page petition they filed before the Supreme Court, the state workers urged the high court to issue a temporary restraining order and/or a writ of Preliminary/Mandatory injunction on the said cap on CNA incentives. The government employees said the Department of Budget and Management is “guilty of grave abuse and usurpation of authority when it issued Budget Circular 2011-5, which placed a cap on their CNA incentive.”
Among those who were present during the filing were employees from the Social Welfare Employees Association of the Philippines of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, National Federation of Employees Associations of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform Employees Association, and employees and union leaders from the National Housing Authority and the Department of Labor and Employment.
Cap on CNA incentive
The Salary Standardization Law III provides for a Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) incentive, which, according to government employees union, is in recognition of the accomplishment of “performance targets at lesser cost, and in attaining more efficient and viable operations through cost cutting measures and systems improvement.”
According to the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), the CNA incentive would be funded through the General Appropriations Act, as stipulated in the law.
But on September 29, 2011, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad issued Department of Budget and Management Circular Letter 2011-9, stipulating that the CNA incentive would be taken from the savings of the respective agencies. Then, on December 26, 2011, Abad released Budget Circular 2011-5, which, according to Gaite, again pushed that the incentive would be taken from the savings of government agencies with a maximum of $581 per employee.
In a memorandum dated January 20, 2012, Ma. Chona O. David-Casis, assistant secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, directed its employees to return the $116 CNA incentive that was earlier granted to them.
“This is unfair. It is forgetting the principle behind the CNA and the corresponding incentive given to government workers,” Ferdinand Gaite, president of Courage, said.
Gaite told Bulatlat.com that the CNA is a product of the workers’ struggle to uplift their working and living conditions. When the two parties signed the agreement, he said, both agreed to do their duties and responsibilities for the organization. “But in this case the Aquino government wants its share to be delivered under a condition,” he said.
“They are virtually saying that state workers should do their jobs while the government would only fulfill it obligation to us under conditions which workers have no control over,” Gaite said, adding that the workers would just have to consider themselves “lucky” if there are savings where the incentive could be taken from.
As stated in their petition, the Budget Circular No. 2011-5 is “unconstitutional as it sought to modify and/or all together nullify specific provisions of validly executed Collective Negotiation Agreements entered into by departments, bureaus, and other instrumentalities of the government, including government owned and controlled corporations, and the employees association or union representing the rank and file employees of the bargaining unit and thus violates the constitutional provision of the non-impairment of obligations.”
Corrupt ‘big’ people remain scot-free
According to Gaite, the move to put a limit on the CNA incentive of government rank and file employees is part of the austerity measures of the Aquino administration.
“This is similar to the budget cuts of the Aquino administration on education, health, housing and other social services, which should have benefited the poor,” Gaite said, “There is mis-prioritization under this administration as it continue to push and fund the Conditional Cash Transfer and the Public Private Partnership program.”
According to Pascual, she feels violated that government workers are generalized as “corrupt.” She said majority of state workers remain poor. In the Department of Agrarian Reform, for one, most of those affected by the CNA incentive cap are employees who belong to salary grades 1 to 24, who earn about $163 to $930 a month.
Pascual said there are many government officials who are corrupt yet they remain scot-free. “Look at Gloria,” referring to former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, “she is facing charges for her misdeeds against the Filipino people, yet the government is spending for her air-conditioning unit, her hospital expenses, among others.”
“There are also big businessmen who are not declaring their taxes properly while, on the other hand, workers pay their taxes even before their salary is handed to them,” Pascual said.
Pascual said the Aquino administration, and Abad, who she calls “berdugo” (executioner) of the welfare of state workers, remain deaf to their calls. “Blind and muted,” she added.
While the Aquino administration is focused on the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona Jr, Gaite said, it should not forget that there are also other issues that need to be addressed. “Do not pour your 100 percent effort in the Corona impeachment. Prioritize the people’s issue sas well.”