Thursday, October 20, 2005

Public Health Workers Go BOLD For COLA Back Pay

Press Release
October 20, 2005
Mr. Jossel Ebesate, Secretary General, AHW
CP # 09189276381
Ms. Emma Manuel, AHW President
CP # 09178008634

Hundreds of Public Health Workers from the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), San Lazaro Hospital, National Center for Mental Health and other hospitals under the Department of Health (DOH) in their bold painted bodies gathered in front of the PGH today to press their demand to the government to pay their back pay of the cost of living allowance (COLA) amounting to P85,000.00 for each of the government employees. “The GMA government is hell bent in imposing E-VAT to the already impoverish Filipinos just to pay its foreign debts, but its debt to the health workers is taken for granted”, said Ms. Emma Manuel, AHW president.

The rallying public health workers lead by the All U.P. Workers Union and the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) demanded that the national government through the Department of Budget and Management and respective government agencies immediately release P1 Billion for an initial payment of COLA as prescribed by Cabinet memorandum dated September 9, 2005.

Mr. Jossel I. Ebesate, President of the All UP Workers Union in Manila and Secretary General of the AHW concluded that: “Now is the time for the government to walk the talk that it cares for its own health care givers. If it really served the interest of the people, no other concrete example would suffice than paying its own debts to its own employees.”

It must be recalled that in 1989 during the implementation of R.A. 6758 (Salary Standardization Law), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) failed to publish in the National Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation the Implementing Rules and Regulations as required by law. It was only in 1999 and 2004 that said guidelines was published for employees in government owned and controlled corporations (GOCC) and other government employees, respectively. Said DBM guidelines stipulated among others that allowances and other income (COLA included) were already incorporated in the basic salary hence, the payment of which were no longer authorized, eliciting series of charges from concerned government employees that went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Subsequently, in a series of Supreme Court decisions (7 as of last account) starting from De Jesus, et. al .vs. Commission on Audit (COA) in 1998 to PPA vs. COA on September 6, 2005, the Court consistently ruled that said DBM Guidelines were declared “ineffective” in the absence of publication, hence “inapplicable.” The Court further ruled that: “in consonance of the equal protection clause of the Constitution, and considering that the employees were all similarly situated as to the matter of the COLA… they should all be treated similarly. All – not only incumbents as of July 1, 1989 – should be allowed to received back pay corresponding to the said benefits from July 1, 1989 to the new effectivity date…”