High Court asked to lift cap on cash incentives for state workers

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

GOVERNMENT employees sought temporary relief from the Supreme Court on Tuesday in relation to the Aquino administration's move to clip the budget for their collective negotiation agreement (CNA) incentives.

In a 32-page petition for temporary restraining order, members of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) assailed the issuance of Budget Circular 2011-5 (Supplemental Guidelines on the grant of Collective Negotiation Agreement Incentive for Fiscal Year 2011) last December 26.

Released by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, the directive puts a P25,000 ceiling for CNA incentives of government employees as a way to establish fairness and prudence in the management of public funds.


In deference to Abad's directive, Assistant Secretary Maria Chona David Asis of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) came up with a memorandum last January 20 that directed every employee to return the excess of the CNA incentive given to them.

Specifically, social welfare employees were tasked to refund the amount of P5,000 through a fixed monthly deduction from their salary in the amount of P500 each month effective February this year until November.

However, Courage said the DBM circular is unconstitutional since it has encroached on the power of Congress to appropriate funds, thus, Abad has no authority to limit the benefits of state employees.

"His power in relation to the grant of CNA is only recommendatory to the President. He has neither the authority to issue guidelines, to disallow nor set limit or conditions in the grant of the same," adding that Administrative Order 135 issued by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005 did not fix a maximum of CNA incentive bonus which may be granted.

On the DSWD's memorandum, Courage said the DBM circular cannot be made to apply retroactively because to do so "would violate the rights and benefits already vested on the government employees in their CNA."

The CNA is the public sector counterpart of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) or CBA of the private sector employees.

It is a contract entered into by and between the union or employees’ association acting as the sole negotiating agent of the rank-and-file state employees and the management of their respective agencies as represented by the heads of agencies.

Sun.Star has yet to receive a reply from Abad on the move of militant government workers to nullify the circular although in an earlier statement show that government agencies reportedly have constricted expenses for crucial programs and projects only to manufacture savings for CNA incentives.

Oftentimes, Abad said this practice has been abused, with agencies bloating their budgets for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) so they could provide a larger incentive payout.

"This practice has also distorted the salary system within government, with some agencies providing obscenely high CNA incentives, while others are practically dealing with spare change. We want to restore fairness in the public sector compensation system," Abad said. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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