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PNoy vetoes pay hike for nurses

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PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III  on Thursday  vetoed a bill seeking to raise the minimum monthly salary of nurses to almost P25,000.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., said the President has informed Congress that he has vetoed the bill that seeks the enactment of a comprehensive nursing law, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.

“In his message, President Aquino noted that the minimum base pay for entry-level nurses has already been increased through Executive Order No. 201, series of 2016, which raised their total guaranteed annual compensation from P228,924.00 to P344,074.00, apart from other benefits and allowances they receive, such as under the Magna Carta of Public Health,” Coloma said.

Aquino said that the bill, which proposes to further increase the entry level salary for nurses by four grades, will undermine the existing government salary structure and cause wage distortion not only among medical and health care practitioners but also other professionals in the government service.

Aquino said granting the increase will place the salaries of nurses over and above their other similarly situated counterparts, such as optometrists and dentists.

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Sulu sortie. President Benigno Aquino lll answers questions from the media after receiving a briefing from the Armed Forces of the Philippines at Camp Teodulfo S. Bautista in Bus-Bus, Jolo, Sulu on Wednesday. Malacañang Photo

Furthermore, Aquino said the proposed increase “seemingly disregards the financial capacity of most local government hospitals” and also affects the financial viability of private hospitals and non-government health institutions, and may possibly lead to downsizing of hospital personnel and consequent increase in health care costs.

“In view of this, the President was constrained to veto the said bill,” Coloma said.

Aquino’s veto message has been transmitted to both House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Senate President Franklin Drilon.

The Aquino administration ends its six-year term on  June 30, paving the way for the Presidewnt-elect, Rodrigo Duterte.

In February, Aquino signed the executive order that raises the salary of government employees.

The signing of Executive Order no. 201 came weeks after Congress adjourned without passing the proposed wage standardization law, which would have implemented a four-year salary increase program for government workers.

The Salary Standardization Law (SSL4) increases the salary of about 1.6 million government workers by an average of 27 percent.

Coloma said that the executive order provides for the first of four parts in the proposed SSL4 that failed to pass Congress.

Lawmakers failed to reach an agreement over a proposal by the Senate to index the pension of retired military and uniformed personnel to the salary increases of their active duty counterparts.

The Budget Department previously said there are no funds in this year’s budget for the indexation, which is expected to bloat the government’s pension requirements.

The House of Representatives’ version of the measure, meanwhile, did not hike the retired uniformed personnel’s pension. House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II earlier said that the SSL4 sets a four-year government-wide salary increase program, which will cost taxpayers an estimated P850 billion.

In the EO, Aquino said the salary adjustment would ensure that the compensation structure of government personnel is comparable with the prevailing rates in the private sector.

The new scheme will raise the minimum salary for Salary Grade 1 from P9,000 to P11,068. Aquino said the adjustment would also maximize the net take-home pay of government through the inclusion of additional benefits.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the EO would implement compensation adjustment for this year as an interim measure to implement the first tranche of the proposed SSL. He said the full year requirement for the salary standardization has already been provided for in the national budget.

The modified salary schedule for civilian personnel will be implemented in four tranches.

The first tranche will be applied retroactively effective Jan.1, 2016. The succeeding tranches will be implemented every year until 2019.

The EO also grants civilian government personnel a mid-year bonus equivalent to one month’s basic salary, and the productivity enhancement incentive worth P5,000.

The salary adjustment, however, will not cover workers of government-owned and-controlled corporations that are governed by their respective charters.

Coloma said salary adjustments for employees of state-run firms are provided for in the GOCC Governance Act of 2011.

Ang Nars party-list Rep. Leah Pacquiz, one of the authors of the House version of the bill, lamented the President’s veto.

Pacquiz said the measure was supposed to provide relief to Filipino nurses by providing a P24,887 entry-level monthly salary for nurses in both public and private hospitals, with yearly salary increases. The bill also prohibits contractual, job order, on-job-training, and volunteer nurses.

Outgoing House Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares hit Aquino for vetoing the bill.

“It is a trademark move of President Aquino to veto laws that would be of great benefit to our countrymen like the [Social Security System] pension hike bill; and now the salary increase for nurses. But he throws all his support for the bonuses of the SSS board or d salary hikes of high government officials,” Colmenares said.

He saidAquino leaves a legacy of being insensitive to the plight of his avowed bosses, adding that the President was “anti-people” and “anti-poor.”

On Thursday, the President also vetoed a bill seeking to remove conditions for the condonation of all unpaid income taxes of local water districts.

In his message, Aquino said the bill will remove the laudable intent of Republic Act 10026 which is to grant tax reprieve only to local water districts that are financially incapable and committed to instituting fiscal reforms.

Moreover, the President said the bill “sends a message to errant taxpayers that delinquency is acceptable since amnesty or condonation may be given anyway, even without benefit of proper documentation.”

A bill that seeks to extend the period in which graft and corruption charges can be filed from 15 years to 20 years is still pending in Congress.

House Deputy Speaker and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, one of the principal authors of the measure, expressed hope it would be ratified by the Senate and the House before its sine die adjournment last June 6 will be signed into law before the new administration takes office.

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