Drilon urges gov’t to pay nurses, hits DBM’s ‘injustice’
MANILA, Philippines— The government may tap its Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) to pay the salary differentials of nurses affected by the Department of Budget and Management’s controversial circular.
Senate Minority Franklin D. Drilon said this on Tuesday, lamenting the “injustice” caused by DBM’s Circular No. 2020-4, which raised entry-level nurse wages but effectively demoted them at the same time.
Malacañang has already reversed the circular but a group of nurses at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) is asking the government to pay at least P43 million to 823 nurses holding Nurse II positions who did not get their pay for 18 months.
The circular was issued on July 17, 2020, but it was made retroactive to January of the same year.
“I urge President Duterte to direct the DBM to fund the nurses’ backpay out of MPBF, which is designed for such needs,” Drilon then said in a statement.
“The nation is forever grateful for the bravery and selfless act of our medical frontliners, most especially our nurses in crowded government hospitals, who lead the fight against COVID-19 every single day. Now that they need us, are we going to let them down?”
“Malaking bagay po ito para sa ating mga frontline nurses. Ibigay na po natin. Huwag na po natin ipitin yung sahod nila. Huwag na nating pahirapan pa,” he further said, directing his appeal to the DBM.
Drilon said the government could source the backpay for nurses from MPBF, which has an appropriation of P29.3 billion this year and P56.6 billion in 2020.
Based on the average utilization rate from the past five years, Drilon said, “it is projected that MPBF has unutilized balances in the amount of P18.4 B for 2020 and around P9.5B for 2021.
Historically also, the MPBF is not fully utilized and is declared savings by the end of the year, he said, adding that on average, the utilization rate for the MPBF between 2017 to 2019 is only 67.48 percent.
“Let’s use the MPBF to pay the salary differential of our nurses. They risk their lives each day attending to the growing number of COVID-19 cases. What the DBM did is [an] injustice to our frontline health workers,” Drilon stressed.
Besides, Drilon said the amount being sought by the nurses was “peanuts compared to billions of pesos that [are] lost to corruption each year.”
“This is nothing compared to the P16.4 billion released to NTF-ELCAC,” he said, referring to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac).
Senator Risa Hontiveros also called on DBM and the Department of Health to immediately act on nurses’ concerns.
“Isang kapabayaan na ipagkait sa ating mga nurses ang kanilang karapatan ayon sa batas,” Hontiveros said in a separate statement, citing the Philippine Nursing Act and the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers.
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