‘Lugaw’ protest hits DOST pay cutBy Jaymee T. Gamil
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Government workers who are supposedly in the forefront of research and innovation are turning to the lowly lugaw to dramatize the step backward they are being forced to take in terms of employee benefits.
Around 200 employees of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) spent their lunch break on Friday protesting the sudden cuts in the benefits they have been receiving since 1998.
They showed up in black shirts, sang protest songs and had lugaw (congee) for a frugal lunch at the DOST central office in Bicutan, Taguig City, following reports that they would no longer be receiving hazard pay and longevity allowance starting this month.
Under the Magna Carta for Scientists, Engineers, Researchers and other Science and Technology Personnel (Republic Act 8439), these employees are entitled to benefits such as honorarium, shares in royalties, hazard allowance, subsistence allowance, laundry allowance, housing and quarter allowance, longevity pay and medical.
But according to Marciano Jacinto Jr., a DOST employee for 18 years and vice president of the labor union Samahan Para sa Ikauunlad ng mga Kawani ng Agham at Teknolohiya (Sikat), his coworkers have only been receiving a portion of these benefits, particularly the hazard, subsistence, longevity and laundry allowances.
Worse, he said, they only received subsistence allowance this month amounting to around P150 a day.
In an October 10 memo to the employees, Assistant Science Secretary Oswaldo Santos explained that DOST officials “are working hard to carry out all possible solutions to maintain the status quo to implement our Magna Carta.”
Santos explained that under the 2012 General Appropriations Act, the Department of Budget and Management became stricter in realigning the savings of the different departments.
“We have fulfilled all the requirements set by the DBM and have explained the heavy necessity to release our Magna Carta benefits,” he said, adding the DOST officials were still awaiting a response from the budget department.
Jacinto said the cuts have been enforced in almost all of the 21 DOST attached agencies since the start of the year but that the union was still caught unprepared when it was finally enforced in the central office this month.
“We expected this to happen next year, not this early. It is hard to adjust,” he said. “We’re asking for just compensation and compassion. These are covered by our rights. They can’t just remove the benefits we have been enjoying for a long time.”
He warned of demoralization in the DOST ranks. “We have to swallow this bitter pill. If we will not receive benefits, the first to be affected would be our kids.”
Hence, DOST employees would continue to eat lugaw—a symbol of scarcity—in their next protest actions, he said.