Aquino’s favorite whipping boys in 2012, government employees

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com


MANILA – During President Benigno “Noynoy” C. Aquino III’s 2012 State of the Nation Address, he announced, as good news, the Performance-based Incentive system for government employees.

However, this bit of good news drove government employees to march out of their offices and call for its scrapping by late 2012.

“Employees now hold the keys to their own advancement. Incentives may reach up to P35,000 ($853), depending on how well you do your jobs. This is in addition to your across-the-board Christmas bonus,” Aquino said, “We are doing this not only to boost morale and to show due appreciation of our public servants. This is, above all, for the Filipino people, who expect sincere and efficient service – who expect that they will continue to be the sole Bosses of our workers in government.”

Executive Order No. 80, which mandated the Performance-based Incentive system, described it as a way to “motivate higher performance and greater accountability in the public sector and ensure the accomplishment of commitments and targets” of the Aquino government.

Under this scheme, all government employees will receive P5,000 ($121) for their Productivity Enhancement Incentive. Then, a “top-up bonus,” the Performance-based Incentive, would be given to personnel and bureaus if they rank in the top three agencies. Only those who rank Best Performer, Better Performer and Good Performer will receive the Performance-based Incentive. As a result, only 10 percent of the total number of government employees will get their Performance-based Incentive, John Lucero, an employee and union leader from the Department of Trade and Industry, told Bulatlat.com.

Courage fears this system would promote “patronage and spoils,” which is “deeply rooted in the bureaucracy” as “only those employees who are closely associated with the current administration or who kowtows to the government’s policies will receive ‘very satisfactory’ ratings.”

But for government employees – meaning lowly workers who get meager salary – the Performance-based Incentive scheme is but one of the ploys of the Aquino government, Courage said, to pin down their wages. The government employees union Courage added that the Aquino administration hopes that under this scheme, they would no longer demand for salary increases.

Such deceptive scheme, according to government employees, would worsen their living conditions. Courage said Aquino particularly stressed that those “who feed into its trap of dividing the ranks of organized employees” will receive a “maximum” of P35,000.

The Performance-based Incentive scheme will not really be of benefit to all government employees, and possibly, even cause more harm than good and might even deprive them of their hard-earned benefits.

Deprived of CNA incentive

Benefits that government employees fought for are also being attacked. Collective negotiations agreement (CNA) incentive, a result of employees’ bargaining power as an accredited union, is being deprived to them.

Earlier, a P25,000 ($609) ceiling was imposed on the Collective Negotiations Agreement Incentive of government employees, through Budget Circular No. 2011-5. Budget secretary Florencio Abad defended it, saying government agencies have been “bloating their budgets for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) so they could provide a larger incentive payout.”

But in the case of employees of the Metro Manila Development Authority, they have not received a single centavo for their CNA incentive, despite the fact that their agency’s bank statement showed that the MMDA has four time deposit accounts in three different banks.

The MMDA’s Subsidiary Ledger from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2011 showed that it has a time deposit account amounting to $1.46 million at the Philippine National Bank. It also has a time deposit account in the Philippine Veterans Bank amounting to $856,433 and two more in the Land Bank of the Philippines amounting to $1.62 million and $1.067 million, respectively. This money reportedly came from MMDA’s savings.

Employees, through their union, have asked the administrators of MMDA to give them their CNA incentive. But union leaders felt that the talks were going in circles and that their administrators were not really going to give in to their demands.

“We waited patiently and went through the process of initial negotiations as we waited for the management to declare the agency’s savings, so that we could talk about our incentives and benefits,” the Kapisanan para sa Kagalingan ng mga Kawani ng MMDA’s statement read, “But the talks with the management just went in circles. They lied. They told us that the agency has no savings and has nowhere to get our benefits.”

Employees launched protest actions in front of the MMDA’s office along EDSA. Their biggest gathering was on Dec. 3, 2012. They managed to block all five lanes of EDSA for an hour. This has caused heavy traffic along Metro Manila’s busiest highway, where nearly 300,000 vehicles pass every day. But MMDA employees were adamant, saying it would have never reached that point if their administrators took their demands seriously.

Benefits attacked

Employees of the National Housing Authority received a notice informing them of the revocation of their allowances and ordering them to return the amount released to them. Lucy Tamural, an employee of NHA for nearly 30 years, joined their union’s protest action on Oct. 31, 2012. It was her 50th birthday but, she said, she chose to celebrate it on the streets, calling on President Aquino to stop its plan to revoke their allowances and make them pay the amount that was released to them.

The revocation notice covers their productivity bonus, which amounted to P5,000 ($121) annually. Lelet Osit, treasurer of Consolidated Union of Employees – NHA, said they could not rely on Aquino’s Performance-based bonus because “it is subjective. Rank and file workers do not have a say on who will receive it.”

“They cannot tell us to be more thrifty in our spending because we do not have money to spend in the first place,” Osit said. For one, Tamural’s salary rate is about $285 a month but her take home pay is only about $5 after all deductions. She said she, just like other government employees, is forced to avail of loans to get by.

The Department of Trade and Industry, according to its union leader John Lucero, does not hire permanent employees anymore. They, instead, hire contractual workers who are not entitled to mandatory benefits such as Philhealth, housing, among others. In fact, he added, out of the 4,200 plantilla positions, their agency hired only 1,900.

Lucero told Bulatlat.com that one of his colleagues has been working for DTI as a “job order” for 15 years now.

Erwin Lanuza, an employee of the Quezon City Hall and a union leader of Kasama Ka-QC, said employees of local government units are treated as second-class citizens. Under the Salary Standardization Law 3, local government units are not required to increase the wages of their employees.

“We are also part of the government and of public service,” he said.

Rank and file employees of the Commission of Elections are not just protesting the non-payment of their benefits, but their own wage system as well. Armando Mallorca, vice president for external affairs of the Comelec Employees Union, said their salary is not at par with workers in other agencies.

Mallorca said their small pay has been “a source of demoralization and embarrassment” especially during elections, when Comelec employees are at the frontlines. For one, a chairman of the Board of Canvassers gets a smaller pay compared to a city prosecutor or a Department of Education supervisor because their honoraria is based on their basic pay.

Lucero said the government thinks that the benefits they are getting, on top of their salary, are just “extra money.” But he said it is their lifeline. A few days before his interview with Bulatlat.com, he paid his children’s tuition from the incentive he got.

Courage 2

Worse, two members of Courage, Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano, were arrested in Quezon City and in the province of Cavite, respectively, and detained in Daet, Camarines Norte, 342 kilometers southeast of Metro Manila.

The Courage 2, as the two are called, worked closely with protesting employees of the MMDA. In fact, Camposano was last seen by fellow Courage members during the protest action of MMDA employees last Dec. 3, when they managed to block EDSA for almost an hour.

“Vegas and Camposano have been charged with five counts of murder, one count of theft and one count of frustrated murder before the Regional Trial Court Branch 64 in Labo, Camarines Norte. The charges were in connection with their alleged participation in an ambush by the New People’s Army (NPA) against the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Maot, Labo, Camarines Norte on April 29,” a previous Bulatlat.com report read.

Both of them were not presented with a warrant of arrest.

Courage denied the charges against their two organizers. Thess Gonzales, a union leader of KKK-MMDA, said Vegas and Camposano helped them in raising the political consciousness of MMDA workers. “They are only teaching us about our rights, the benefits that we should be getting,” she said.

Gonzales added, “How could they participate in the alleged ambush when they are here with us in Manila preparing for the May 1 rally? Clearly, the charges are fabricated.”

‘Scandalous’ salaries of top officials

Amid calls to give just wage and benefits to government employees, media reported what Comelec Employees Union calls as “fat and scandalous salaries and perks” of top government officials, as seen in the Commission on Audit’s 2011 Report on Salaries and Allowances.

Aquino’s highest paid Cabinet member, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario earned $73,400 in salaries, bonuses and allowances in 2011. The report includes other Cabinet secretaries’ salaries such as: Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala’s pay amounting to $56,750, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson who received $51,534, Health Secretary Enrique Ona’s $54,570 and Justice secretary Leila de Lima’s $51,122.

Elmer Labog, chairman of Kilusang Mayo Uno, said that while the Aquino government is implementing a cheap labor policy for Filipino workers, it is also pushing for a “get richer quick policy” for its top officials. “While workers’ wages barely meet their families’ basic needs, it seems that government officials’ every move is being subsidized by the taxes of the poor,” he said.

Such high salaries draw stark contrast to the “loan here, loan there” conditions of government employees, who the Commission on Elections claimed to be “overrepresented” when it denied their party-list group’s bid for accreditation for the partylist elections.

Clearly, they are not. ()

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