Palace says funds may be short for government nurses' backpay

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 08 2021 02:58 PM

A nurse steps out of the house after administering Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine to a resident in Marikina City on April 29, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Funds may be insufficient for now to give some 30,000 government nurses backpay, Malacañang said on Tuesday, after President Rodrigo Duterte's office overturned the demotion and approved a pay hike for some nurses. 

The Office of the President in a memorandum overturned a circular of the budget department and upgraded the salary for the rank Nurse 2 by about P3,000. 

Malacañang is "seeking guidance" from Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on the matter, said Palace spokesman Harry Roque. 

"Aalamin po natin kung anong magiging decision sa backpay," he said in a press briefing. 

(We will find out what the decision would be.) 

"Kaya nga po humihingi ng guidance, kasi mukhang wala pong sapat na funding for that, for now. But ‘wag naman tayong mag-alala. Kung ang guidance ng ES, magbibigay ng backpay, puwede naman po iyang isama sa 2022 budget."

(We are asking guidance because it appears that there is no sufficient funding for that, for now. But let us not worry. If the guidance of the ES is to give backpay, that can be included in the 2022 budget.)

The budget department is also looking for fund sources for the prospective pay increase for nurses, said Roque. 

"Kampante naman po si [Budget] Secretary Wendel [Avisado] na makakahanap tayo ng pondo sa existing budget ng DOH," he said. 

(Secretary Wendel is confident that we can find funds in the existing budget of the Department of Health.)

The issue started last year, when the Department of Budget and Management raised the salary of entry-level nurses. 

But at the same time, it dissolved the Nurse 7 or "chief nurse" rank. This effectively demoted the positions of Nurses 2 to 7 by one rank lower, while retaining their salary level. 

Filipino Nurses United vice president Eleanor Nolasco said it took "consistent calling out on our part and lobbying, and raising public opinion and awareness before they (Duterte's office) finally considered and they reversed that decision of the DBM."

"It had to take almost a year para makita ‘yong injustice na ‘yon," she said. 

"Tawag sila nang tawag na kami raw ang mga bagong bayani, na talagang nire-recognize ang contribution. Yet, doon sa simpleng pag-recognize sa pamamagitan ng sahod saka posisyon, hindi nila ginawa." 

(They keep calling us the modern heroes whose contribution they recognize. Yet, they could not give even simple recognition, through salary and position.)
 
The previous demotion of nurses, she said, would have affected their retirement benefits, chances of promotion, and job description, among others. 
 

Video courtesy of RTVM