Malacañang stands by Diokno, blames Congress for delayed salary hike
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang reiterated its support for Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno after House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr filed a class suit against the budget chief for refusing to release a scheduled government pay hike because Congress has yet to approve the 2019 national budget.
While Andaya claimed Diokno was holding hostage the salary hike, scheduled for release in 2019 under the 2016 Salary Standardization Law, the Palace said it is Congress which should be blamed for the non-release.
"The one holding hostage would be Congress, not [the] executive department," said Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Monday, January 14, during a press briefing.
What's Diokno's argument? Malacañang echoed Diokno's stance – that the 4th tranche in the salary hike cannot be implemented by the executive unless Congress passes the 2019 budget.
For Diokno and the Palace, implementing the hike without the approved budget would be unconstitutional since funds would be released without a budget law as basis.
"Kasi nga, ano magiging basis mo (Because, what then will be your basis), where will you get the money?" said Panelo.
Andaya, meanwhile, insisted that certain provisions in the reenacted 2018 national budget allow the executive to release the money for the 4th tranche – the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) which is worth P99.45 billion. This amount would cover the P42.71 billion allotted for the 4th tranche.
What happens to the 2019 budget? Panelo, on Monday, again urged Congress to ensure the passage of the 2019 budget in February. Doing so would allow the executive branch to implement the salary hike.
"As soon as the budget is enacted, that's precisely why we were urging graciously the House of Reps to finish, as well as the Senate, to approve the budget so it can be operational in the 2nd quarter," said the Palace spokesman.
The government is currently operating based on the national budget for 2018. The 2019 budget was not approved on time because lawmakers and the executive clashed on whether or not to implement a cash-based budgeting system, accusations of pork barrel-like insertions, and the fate of Road Board funds. – Rappler.com