Saturday , June 23, 2018

Briones: For everyone

WELL, what do you know?

Financial assistance to public school teachers is not the same as their cost of living allowance (Cola) or hardship allowance.

Although, for all intents and purposes, it should be. Because it’s still money they receive on top of their take-home pay. Right?

So help me understand.

It’s okay for the Cebu City Government to set aside P56 million to help out public school teachers because the budget is covered by an appropriation ordinance of the 2017 annual budget, but not okay to allocate some P80 million back in 2015 for the latter purpose, the amount of which the administration of former mayor Michael Rama charged to the Special Education Fund.

Back then, former Local School Board head Ronald Diola cited Sections 18 and 19 of the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, or Republic Act 4670, “which allows the granting of teachers to teachers to allow them to keep pace with the rising cost of living” and acknowledges the fact that “some teachers are exposed to hardships, such as commuting to the place of work or other hazards peculiar to the place of work.”

However, the Commission on Audit (COA) is now saying that the legal basis no longer applies.

It pointed out Section 12 of RA 6758, or the Act Prescribing a Revised Compensation and Position Classification System in the Government and for Other Purposes, which states that other additional compensation for teachers is deemed included in their standardized salary rates.

It also cited Department of Budget Management Budget Circular 2001-03, which states “that payment of allowances and compensation such as Cola, amelioration allowance and inflation-connected allowance, among others, which are already integrated in the basic salary, are deemed unauthorized.”

Perhaps, if the City doesn’t want to find itself in a similar mess in the future, it should just do away with distributing largesse to certain sectors of society altogether.

If indeed the City’s Local Finance Committee is serious in achieving a “realizable, realistic and achievable” budget, it should, and I reiterate, do more than just reduce financial assistance for several groups, including senior citizens and persons with disability, which it has done under its annual budget for next year.

The last time I checked, the City also provides stipends to judges, prosecutors and the police.

But if it scraps all that just imagine what it can do to all that money it will save, money that will fund tangible projects that will benefit everyone and not just a select few.