MANILA - Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno should use the reenacted budget to fund the fourth tranche of the salary hike for government workers, at least two senators said Thursday.
Diokno was recently quoted as saying that the pay increase, which was supposed to start on Jan. 1, may be deferred after lawmakers failed to approve the proposed 2019 national budget before its Christmas break due to allegedly anomalous insertions.
The government is currently running on a recycled budget from the previous year.
The reenacted budget includes P99.4 billion under the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) that can be used for the salary hike, said Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Of the total MPBF, P62.8 billion is allocated for compensation adjustment, while P12.36 billion is for salary upgrades, he said.
"Mr. DBM Secretary, implement the salary increase now. It is not unconstitutional," he said on Twitter.
"Obviously, there is legal basis as there are funds to implement the salary hike, especially for the first quarter of 2019," he added.
Sen. Bam Aquino also said the MPBF could be used for the pay hike that could help state workers cope with rising consumer prices.
"Sa panahon ngayon kailangang kailangan ng mga guro natin ang ayuda para makaagapay sa hirap ng buhay," he said in a statement.
(Our teachers badly need our help to cope with difficulties in life.)
"Huwag naman sanang ipagkait sa mga empleyado ng pamahalaan at sa mga guro itong agarang ayuda na matagal na nilang hinihiling at hinihintay," he continued.
(Let's not deprive government employees and our teachers of the immediate relief that they have long requested and hoped for.)
An executive order signed by former President Benigno Aquino III provides for a salary increase for civilian government employees in 2019, while a joint resolution by President Rodrigo Duterte mandates a pay hike for military and uniformed personnel also this year.
The approval of the proposed P3.7-trillion national budget for this year was derailed over allegations that it contained anomalous insertions by Diokno and discretionary funds for House members, including House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Diokno dismissed as "illusory" the allegation that he inserted P75 billion in appropriations to this year's budget to favor a contractor of flood control projects.
The House Committee on Rules last week launched its probe into the alleged budget anomaly.
Lacson, meanwhile, urged the Office of the Ombudsman to look into the supposed pork barrel insertions.
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said he would ask the Supreme Court to compel Diokno to implement the pay hike if it is not rolled out by Jan. 15.