Fund lack hampers nurses’ pay hike

The Supreme Court has upheld the legality of a provision in Republic Act 9173, or the Philippine Nursing Act, that entitled government nurses to wages equivalent to Salary Grade 15.

But the Court did not compel the government to implement Section 32 of RA 9173 because it will require the passage of a law allocating funds for the increase in the salary of government nurses.

In a decision written by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the high court ruled in favor of the petitioner Ang Nars Party-list, represented by former Rep. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, declaring Section 32 [salary] of the Philippine Nursing Act in 2002 as valid.

But the Court did not grant the petitioners’ plea to compel the implementation of Section 32 since its implementation would require Congress to pass a law to allocate funds for the salary increase.

Named respondents in the case were the Executive secretary and the secretaries of the Health and Budget departments.

In the petition, the Ang Nars Party-list questioned the validity of Executive Order 811 (EO 811), which was issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and asked that the respondents be compelled to implement Section 32 of RA 9173.

Section 32 says “In order to enhance the general welfare, commitment to service and professionalism of nurses, the minimum base pay of nurses working in public health institutions shall not be lower than salary grade 15 prescribed under Republic Act No. 6758, otherwise known as the “Compensation and Classification Act of 1989: ‘Provided, that for nurses working in local government units, adjustments to their salaries shall be in accordance with Section 10 of the said law.” 

On June 1, 2009, and June 2, 2009, the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively, adopted Joint Resolution 4 that authorized the President “to Modify the Compensation and Position Classification System of Civilian Personnel and the Base Pay Schedule of Military and Uniformed Personnel in the Government, and for Other Purposes.” Thereafter, President Arroyo approved the same joint resolution.

In order to implement Joint Resolution 4, President Arroyo on June 17, 2009, issued EO 811 and Section 6 of EO 811 mandated that the salary grade (SG)for the position “Nurse I” be increased from SG 10 to SG 11.

However, the salary grade for nurses under EO 811 is way below the stated salary grade for nurses under RA 9173, which is SG 15.

To address the inconsistency, Paquiz wrote letters to the Health, Justice and Budget departments and sought clarification why the government nurses’ salaries were downgraded to SG 11 when, under RA 9173, they were entitled to SG 15.

When she did not receive a satisfactory response, the lawmaker went to the high court and assailed EO 811. She also asked that the nurses be given their salaries equivalent to SG 15 pursuant to Sec. 32 of RA 9173.

“The SC ruled in favor of the petitioners and said Joint Resolution 4, being a mere resolution, cannot amend or repeal a prior law such as RA 9173. The same applies to EO 811 that is also not a law but an executive directive,” the high court said.

Topics: Supreme Court , Philippine Nursing Act , House of Representatives , Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
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