‘Employees, not Arroyo, should get pay hike’ — senators

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., DJ Yap
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:59:00 09/02/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The rank and file in the government—not President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her Cabinet, senators and congressmen—should get a pay hike, according to senators who questioned Malacañang’s move to incorporating a salary hike in the proposed 2009 national budget.

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan said that while he agreed the bureaucracy deserved a pay raise, it should be limited to positions that would attract and retain good talent, such as lawyers, if the salaries were high enough.

Pangilinan said the President, top government officials and lawmakers should be the last ones to get pay a hike since they would be endorsing and approving the proposal.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said a salary hike for the top officials in government was “inappropriate” at this time.

“I think the rank and file should be prioritized because they are the ones whose pockets are hurting from the high cost of transport and food. We lawmakers have perks and benefits,” Lacson said. “Why are they favoring the upper crust? I think the President should not get a higher salary, she should even give back her salaries to the public.”

Sen. Francis Escudero said a salary hike for government officials and lawmakers would reach a total of P1 billion and this amount was better spent on other more pressing items such as food and housing subsidies.

“We are not being hypocrites, we all know government salaries are really low. The question is what items should be prioritized? Raising the pay of government officials would not solve corruption; putting corrupt ones in jail would. There is no guarantee doubling their salaries would solve corruption in the country,” Escudero said.

Early retirement

Ms Arroyo may be “overworked, underpaid and stressed out” but she doesn’t deserve a pay hike, opposition stalwarts said on Monday.

“Perhaps what the President deserves is an early retirement incentive,” said San Juan Mayor Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito.

Or maybe, as United Opposition (UNO) spokesperson Adel Tamano put it, Ms Arroyo could seek a “better paying job elsewhere.”

Although UNO welcomed a proposal to increase the salary of government employees, it said the President should be excluded.

“We support an increase in the salary of government workers. Government workers, like many Filipinos, can hardly make ends meet because of the economic crisis under the Arroyo administration,” said Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, UNO president.

On Sunday, Press Secretary Jess Dureza said there was nothing irregular about doubling the President’s salary, as all state employees would be given a pay raise in the next four years.

Dureza was reacting to criticism of the four-year salary upgrade plan for state workers that would hike the President’s monthly pay to P120,000 from P60,000. The proposal has been submitted to Congress by the Department of Budget and Management. With a report from Allison W. Lopez

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