By Jomar Canlas/Manila Times
The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday ordered Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to explain why the fourth tranche of the salary increase for state workers had not been implemented.
During the en banc deliberations yesterday, the high court directed Diokno and the DBM to file their comment and defend their position on the withholding of funds for the salary hike in response to the petition filed against them by House Majority Floor Leader Rolando Andaya Jr and several government officials.
The case was raffled off to Associate Justice Jose Reyes who, as ponente, was tasked to study the case and make recommendations on the issue.
In a 27-page Petition for Mandamus, Andaya asked the high court to compel Diokno to release the funds, following Executive Order (EO) 201 under the Aquino 3rd administration that scheduled the implementation for January 2019.
The Supreme Court was also asked to issue a preliminary mandatory injunction to order Diokno to perform his ministerial duty in the release of the funds for government workers. A rift between Diokno and Andaya ensued after the lawmaker claimed that the relatives of the Budget chief would benefit from the government funds.
Andaya said a portion of the 2018 budget covered the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) amounting to P99,446,295,000.00, which should be utilised for payments of personal benefits such as deficiencies in authorised salaries. He said P75.1bn of the MPBF budget could be used for the compensation adjustment and for funding requirements in staffing modifications and upgrading of salaries.
Diokno had said there was no legal basis for the salary increase, citing EO 21 which provides that the implementation of the salary schedule was “subject to appropriations by Congress.”
The DBM chief maintained that the fourth tranche of salary adjustments would be implemented in February upon the approval of the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
But Andaya, in his petition for mandamus, said Diokno could not use as an excuse the delay in the passage of the 2019 budget not to implement the salary hike, adding that the withholding of funds would be tantamount to deprivation of the right to property which is enshrined under the 1987 Constitution.
The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading the proposed P3.75tn national budget for 2019, after a delay of more than a month. The government has been running on a re-enacted budget since January 1 and will continue to do so until President Rodrigo Duterte signs the 2019 GAA.
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