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June 28, 2013
Antique govt employees complain about ‘unjust’ decisions of new governor

One government employee was dismissed and the others were deprived of the salary increase that is due to them under the Salary Standardization Law 3.

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Eric Otayde, 49, a dismissed government worker from Antique, filed a case before the Civil Service Commission questioning the legality of his dismissal by the incumbent governor of the province. His efforts paid off. He won the case. But he has not yet been reinstated.

“What is taking the Civil Service Commission so long to implement the decision? As a permanent employee, I am entitled to security of tenure. It seems that justice is so near yet so far,” Otayde told Bulatlat.com in a telephone interview.

Otayde believes that he was singled out by the provincial government because he was closely associated with former governor Salvacion Zaldivar-Perez. He was the public information officer of Antique before Perez assigned him as provincial administrator. When Exequiel Javier won in 2010, he “transferred” Otayde to the provincial satellite office in Culasi, which is 92 kilometers away from San Jose.

Otayde was soon terminated.

Javier said Otayde’s service is co-terminus with the former governor. But the Civil Service Commission regional office ruled in favor of Otayde on May 11, 2011. It also ordered his reinstatement, saying that the dismissal was illegal.

Two years later, Otayde still has not yet been reinstated. Javier, for his part, said the position Otayde had is already occupied. He told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that, “the person occupying the position now also enjoys security of tenure. How can I reinstate (Otayde)?”

Just a few weeks before the May 2013 election, Otayde went on fast to protest his non-reinstatement. He only took biscuits and water for several days.

“You will begin to think that our judicial system is on the crooked road. The decision is already out there but those in power continue to ignore it,” he said.

Depleting resources

Otayde said that because he has not been able to work for the past few years, his family suffered financial problems. Pursuing a legal battle, he added, is very expensive. “My savings is already depleted. I pawned all the jewelry I used to own.”

He was also barred from teaching at the University of Antique, where he used to teach ethics, logic and political science courses. “(Javier) had me removed from (my teaching post) even if I have been a faculty member since 2007.”

Otayde said Javier wrote to the university officials, saying that he will no longer issue a permit to teach to Otayde. “But I thought he already terminated me? I do not think that I still need to secure a permit to teach,” he added.

Other workers deprived of decent salaries

Meanwhile, other employees of the provincial government are also pursuing a separate case against Javier. Bienvenido Nallos Jr., 26, president of the United Provincial Government Employees of Antique, said they are demanding for the return of nearly $326,190 to its employees.

Nallos said Javier took back the first tranche of their salary increase, which was based on the Salary Standardization Law 3. Javier reportedly told them that if the salary increase would be implemented, the provincial government would exceed the 45 percent ceiling that government offices may spend for the salaries of its employees and officials, as stipulated in Section 325 of RA No. 7160 or the Local Government Code.

In this light, Javier, in his Executive Order No. 126, said the savings that would be derived from taking back the salary increase from the period January to December 2010 would be “transferred to the General Fund as un-appropriated surplus and shall be available for expenditures through subsequent budgets.”

The Antique provincial government was able to “save” $326,190 from July to December 2010 alone. About $666,666 and $452,380 were also saved from the whole year of 2011 and from January to October 2012, respectively.

But in a letter dated March 8, 2012, Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos said Antique did not reach the 45 percent ceiling, stating that after reviewing the province’s annual budget in 2010, the personnel services expenditures, which included the first tranche of the salary increase according to SSL 3, “was declared to be within the forty-five percent PS limitation…”

Javier’s executive order prompted the provincial government employees to file a case against Javier and provincial board members on March 2012. Four months later, the court ruled that the executive order that aims to put a stop to the first tranche of the SSL 3 is null and void. The court also deemed that the order is an abuse of authority. It also ordered the distribution of $326,190 to the employees.

Nallos said that not a single cent has been given to the provincial employees. Instead, they have been accused of milking the government. He said they are entitled by law to what they are asking for.

There are nearly 1,200 employees who would benefit if the $326,190 would be distributed. Nallos said most of them are nurses and doctors who were hired by the provincial government for its hospitals.

“It would be of big help to us because we are not well compensated,” Nallos said, “(Our salary) is unfair and unjust.”

He added that most of his co-workers are heavily indebted to loan sharks. Nallos, himself, needs to pay a monthly amortization of some $167 from his monthly salary of $261. He is the breadwinner of the family and he also helps send his nieces and nephews to school.

“I am still paying for the money we borrowed for the dialysis of my late father in 2011,” he said.

The first tranche of their salary was returned only last Nov. 2012. Nallos said he felt bad because if only they did not have to go through all these legal battles, Antique provincial government employees should have received their fourth tranche already.

Problems in local government offices

On June 24, Otayde and Nallos arrived in Manila to lobby before national government agencies to look into the case of Antique government employees. They submitted letters to various senators and members of the House of Representatives to look into their case.

Otayde told Bulatlat.com that government workers, especially those who are in the frontline of social services, are often victims of the case they cited. He added that if this is happening to a permanent worker like him, who has a relatively higher position compared to others, it could also happen to anyone else. It is, he said, in fact happening.

He said it has been common practice in local governments to fire casual and contractual employees who the present politician thinks is closely associated with the previous administration. They would, instead, hire those who supported and helped them during the electoral campaign.

“This is happening in every part of the country,” he said.

Otayde urged President Aquino and members of the Congress to look into the situation of government employees, who, he said, has been breeding resentment among their ranks. “How will they address this situation where government workers are at the mercy of these politicians?” (http://bulatlat.com)

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