House approves Salary Standardization Law 2015
(UPDATE) The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on third and final reading the proposed Salary Standardization Law (SSL) 2015.
With a vote of 170-5 and one abstention, the lower chamber finally approved the House Bill 6268 just a month after it was approved on second reading on Nov. 11.
The SSL 2015 standardizes the salary increases of government workers in four tranches from 2016 to 2019.
Among those who voted against the bill are Act Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan and Abakada Rep. Jonathan Dela Cruz.
Meanwhile, Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon abstained from voting. He cited a conflict of interest because the SSL 2015 suspends the indexation of the pension benefits of retired military personnel like him. Biazon is a former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief.
Tinio said he voted against the bill because it only implemented paltry sums to ordinary workers.
He said the SSL 2015 relied on the grant of bonuses instead of increasing the salaries.
“Hindi sasapat ang dagdag na ibibigay ng SSL 2016 para sa malaking mayorya ng gobyerno… Ang kahalagahan at kaibahan ng sweldo ay bukod sa makakatugon sa pang-araw-araw na pangangailangan, investment din ang sweldo sa kanilang future, lalo na sa kanilang retirement pension, na nakabatay sa kanilang sweldo, hindi bonus,” Tinio said.
The chamber fielded the bill on third reading approval after a quorum was declared with 176 solons responding to the call Wednesday night.
Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza questioned the quorum, saying he only counted 140 warm bodies on the floor. The chamber needed at least 145 of the 187-strong chamber to reach a quorum.
Majority leader Neptali Gonzales II said the chair has always ruled that the solons who are present within the vicinity or even on official business may be counted in the roll call.
The authors of the SSL 2015 are Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, Minority leader Ronaldo Zamora, appropriations committee chair Davao City Rep Isidro Ungab, and accounts chair Romblon Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona.
The bill was earlier passed on second reading without being certified by President Aquino as urgent. A certification would have fast tracked the passage of the bill from second to third reading on the same day.
The SSL 2015 is pending in the committee level at the Senate.
Militant solons criticized the SSL 2015 for giving paltry sums to ordinary workers while granting hefty increases to higher-ranking officials like the President.
Tinio had lamented the small P2,205 increase for the country’s 600,000 public-school teachers in the four tranches of SSL 2015 implementation.
He said the current salary of an entry-level teacher is at P18,549. Under the SSL, the pay for Teacher 1 would increase to P19,077 in the first year of implementation in 2016, P19,620 in 2017, P20,179 in 2018, and P20,754 in 2019.
The most basic Salary Grade 1 would also be increased from P9,000 to P11,068 a month.
Meanwhile, the President’s salary is increased from the current P120,000 to as much as P388,096. The Vice President, Speaker of the House, Senate President, and Chief Justice’s salary would be increased to as much as P353,470 after four years.
The bill would only increase the salaries of the President and Vice President upon the expiration of their terms. This means President Benigno Aquino III and Vice President Jejomar Binay would not benefit from the salary hike.
Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad had said the current Cabinet secretaries were not included in the hike as delicadeza.
He said the salary hike for members of the House of Representatives and Senate and of the Cabinet would only take place on July 1, 2016 or after the expiration of the incumbents’ terms.
The House approved the bill on second reading just days after President Aquino endorsed the SSL 2015 to Congress.
The president backed the bill after the budget department conducted a thorough study on the merits of adjusting the salary grades of public sector employees closer to the pay of their private sector counterparts.
In a statement, Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said the proposed bill seeks a four-year P226-billion compensation hike for the government’s 1.53 million civilian and military and uniformed personnel.
The compensation package is composed of a salary increase, a mid-year 14th month pay, and an enhanced performance-based bonus (PBB) system, Abad said.
He added that the salary hike would increase the basic Salary Grade 1 from P9,000 to P11,068 a month.
The bill seeks to increase the basic salary of covered employees by an average of 27 percent. The 14th month pay will increase compensation by eight percent.
Meanwhile, the enhanced PBB is equivalent to one to two months’ salary or an average of 10 percent increase in salary.
The bill also seeks to bridge the gap between the pay of employees in the public sector with their counterparts in the private sector.
Abad said under the bill, the lowest salary grade, Salary Grade 1, will be raised to about 154 percent of the market, while the highest salary grade belonging to the President will be about 70 percent of the market.
Government compensation in the average is estimated to increase by 45 percent and should be around 84 percent of private sector pay at the end of the four tranches, Abad said. The average government pay now is 55 percent of the market rate.
Abad said under the bill, the new compensation level for all salary grades will be at least 70 percent of the market; there will be no salary overlaps; and the link between pay and performance will be strengthened.
Due to the enactment of Republic Act 10653, which raised the tax exemption cap to P82,000, the 14th month pay and PBB will be tax-exempt for employees belonging to Salary Grades 1 to 11 who only receive the tax-exempt 13th month pay, the cash gift and the productivity enhancement incentive (PEI).
Meanwhile, only the 14th month pay will be tax-exempt for employees under Salary Grade 12 to 16 who receive the existing tax-exempt 13th month pay, cash gift and PEI.
The first tranche of the pay hike will take effect on Jan. 1, 2016 and thereafter until the final tranche in 2019. TVJ
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