House empowers Duterte to trim bureaucracy
The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on third and final reading the measure empowering President Rodrigo Duterte to remove redundancies and overlaps in the government bureaucracy.
The proposed “Rightsizing the National Government Act of 2017” (House Bill No. 5707) is the first of the priority agenda of Malacañang to be passed by the 17th Congress.
The President pushed for the bill’s passage in his State of the Nation Address on Monday, asserting that the reorganization would “trim the excess fat and add more muscle” to the bureaucracy.
Two days later, an overwhelming majority of the House—230 lawmakers—approved the bill. But it was rejected by six members of the militant Makabayan bloc, which ironically belongs to the administration-led supermajority.
The leftist party-list lawmakers were Gabriela Reps. Emerenciana de Jesus and Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Jane Elago.
In a statement, Casilao said the bloc opposed the bill because it could “lead to massive disenfranchisement or termination of thousands of government workers” and worsen the “sorry state of hundreds of thousand[s of] contractuals.”
In a separate statement, Castro said that the bill’s proponents, including the Department of Budget and Management, admitted that 16 percent of the 1.6 million government positions, or 255,295 state workers, would be affected in the first year alone.
“Instead of answering the just demand of government employees and workers for salary increase and regularization, government through rightsizing will only effect massive layoffs, retrenchment, and displacement and worsen contractualization,” she said.
Zarate, for his part, said that rightsizing was just a “neoliberal euphemism for more contractualization of public sector jobs and privatization of basic services.”
“Rightsizing is an affront to the security of tenure of public sector workers in the guise of efficiency,” he said.
Responding to critics of the bill, Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles argued that “the Rightsizing Law is not firing anyone.”
Options for employees
“It is not a forced retirement or separation scheme,” said Nograles, who shepherded the bill as the House appropriations committee chair.
He explained that government workers who would be affected by rightsizing “have the option to avail of the package or they can opt to stay in government service.”
“If they opt to stay in government office they will be placed in a training pool for training and retooling and eventual redeployment to another government office,” said Nograles.
The bill grants the President the authority to reorganize the bureaucracy by strengthening agencies, phasing out programs better carried out by the private sector and transferring or integrating certain functions.
The President may also regularize ad hoc offices, consolidate or split agencies.
Permanent employees who will be affected by the rightsizing will be granted retirement benefits and separation incentives ranging from one-half the basic monthly salary to one and one-fourth for every year of service, depending on the length of employment.
A minimum of five years of government service is required to avail of the separation incentives.
The CSC will also administer a manpower pool for permanent employees who opt not to retire, so they may be retooled and deployed to other agencies.