Calida opposes move to raise salary of gov’t nurses

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 27 2019 01:30 AM

MANILA - The Solicitor General on Tuesday said there is no legal basis to grant the salary increase demanded by government nurses through a petition filed before the Supreme Court.

Facing the SC en banc during the oral arguments on the petition filed by Ang Nars Party-list and Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), Solicitor General Jose Calida said the legal basis cited by the group had been repealed and insisting on the increase will lead to wage distortion.

Ang Nars Party-list and PSLINK filed the petition in January 2015 asking the high tribunal to compel the government to raise the salary grade of entry level nurses in public health institutions to Salary Grade (SG) 15, as mandated under section 32 of Republic Act 9173 or the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002.
 
RA 6758 or the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989 previously set the SG level of government nurses at SG 10.

But according to the Solicitor General, Congress in 2009 passed Joint Resolution No. 4 repealing section 32. Then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also issued Executive Order No. 811 reassigning the salary grade of entry level nurses from SG 10 to SG 11.

Ang Nars Party-list, represented by lawyer Sharon Faith Paquiz, however contended a joint resolution could not have repealed a law.

“There is no saying that a joint resolution, even though it passed three readings of both houses approved by the President, will make it a republic act,” she argued, noting that only a law can repeal another law.

She also said that the joint resolution could not have repealed section 32 because the title of the joint resolution only allowed the President to modify the compensation and position classification system of civilian personnel and base pay of military and uniformed personnel.

In his opening statement, Calida said the legislative intent of both houses of Congress was to repeal section 32 in light of its inconsistency with RA 6758.
 
“In the Philippine legislative milieu, as confirmed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, there is no real difference between a bill and a joint resolution. Both are laws,” he said.

Calida refuted Ang Nars Party-list’s claim that the repeal of section 32 will lead to diminution of benefits, saying the salary government nurses received actually increased from SG 10 to 11 because of EO 811.

He also argued, giving in to the demand of the group will lead to a distortion of wages between government nurses and other government medical professionals.

“Assigning SG 15 for the Nurse I position would lead to inequity and wage distortion in medical and allied positions, as well as other positions in the bureaucracy – a Nurse I would be higher or would be more compensated than a Medical Officer I (i.e., a government doctor) with SG 14,” he said, citing other medical professionals.

“All of these allied medical professionals work under essentially the same conditions, but would become differently situated in terms of salary if Section 32 of R.A. No. 9173 would be enforced,” he added.
 
Calida also questioned the petitioners’ legal standing to file the petition noting that Ang Nars Party-list’s former Representative Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, who filed the petition, is neither a nurse nor an incumbent legislator.

He also said the petition should have been filed in lower courts first, following the doctrine of hierarchy of courts.

Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin directed the parties to submit their memoranda within 20 days or until March 18, 2019.