By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Government employees criticized President Benigno S. Aquino III’s proposed $234.9 million Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund for 2012, saying that it was “unconscionable considering the deplorable poverty experienced by government employees and the people.”
“We are enraged over such a large amount appropriated solely for Aquino’s pork barrel, while the rank-and-file employees continue to survive in abject conditions amidst the soaring prices of basic commodities,” Courage national president Ferdinand Gaite said.
The said Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund is from government savings due to the large numhber of unfilled positions in all government branches.
“As of 2010, the total number of casual, contractual and coterminous public sector employees has swelled to 139, 052. Instead of using this amount as the President’s pork barrel, why not harness it to provide security of tenure to all these employees by regularizing them or by hiring new employees on a regular basis?” Gaite said.
P6,000 salary increase
Despite the remaining salary adjustments for 2012 under the Salary Standardization Law 3, government employees said it is “too meager” to make a difference. “As it is, we have yet to receive the increase and yet the amount is already lost to inflation,” JUDEA President and Wage Fight! Alliance Spokesperson Maurino Aguilar said in a Bulatlat report.
Government employees, according to Aguilar, are demanding for a P6,000 ($139) increase in their minimum pay, citing that rank and file employees did not benefit from SSL 3 because only those who are in the higher positions were given a significant raise in their salaries.
The group added that the meager salary of government employees could hardly suffice for their daily needs, given continuing oil price hikes, and increasing fees for other social services such as electricity, water, among others.
Gaite said aside from the salary, non-wage benefits could hardly be of help to the government employees. For one, the clothing allowance provided for state workers have been pegged at a measly P4, 000 per year—an amount unchanged since 2000.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Joker Arroyo also questioned the supposed Aquino’s pork barrel. Representatives of the judiciary also raised their oppositions as their $45.82 million budget would also be included in the MPBF.
“The way I see it, it’s a system of control. It’s unwarranted and I think as far as I am concerned, I will resist this. Nothing personal, but it’s my duty as head of the Senate, to resist this system. And I don’t care if I would be kicked out of my position,” Enrile said in a report.
Arroyo, for his part, said Aquino administration seems to be “testing the waters” on how “deep it can control the Supreme Court and Congress and constitutional agencies,” adding that Malacañang is “hijacking the judiciary funds.”
He also noted in the same report the following government offices and their respective allocations for unfilled positions that would now be a part of the MPFB such as: Congress ($6.5 million), judiciary ($45.82 million), Civil Service Commission ($2.84 million), Commission on Audit ($41.65 million), Commission on Elections ($3.75 million), and the Office of the Ombudsman ($13.14 million).
“We challenge the Aquino administration to allocate the MPBF towards providing immediate economic relief for the country’s 1.3 million government workers,” Gaite of Courage said, “We stand firm by our call for a substantial wage increase, particularly a P6,000 ($139) increase to the minimum pay of all government employees.”