Granting pension to barangay execs

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010


CITING their significant contribution in the delivery of basic services in the grassroots level, punong barangays and members of the Sangguniang Barangay, both Houses of Congress are pushing for the establishment of a retirement fund and granting allowances for barangay tanods.

The barangay officials are the frontliners to whom our people honk for immediate help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The measly honoraria they receive are not enough. It is only proper to accord them additional benefits for their invaluable service to the community.

In the upper chamber, Senator Manny Villar filed two separate bills to address these needs. Senate Bill 1323 seeks to entitle for life the barangay officials to a monthly retirement pension equivalent to an amount not lower than the monthly honorarium which he received during his/ her incumbency. To qualify, a barangay official must have served three consecutive terms. While Senate Bill No. 2578 seeks to grant a P1,000 monthly allowance for all barangay tanods, the allowance proposed under the bill is separate from any other form of remuneration that the tanods might receive from their respective cities/ municipalities.

***

Meanwhile, in the lower house, two weeks after the 2010 barangay elections last October, a bill was filed seeking to grant financial and tax incentives to the officials and staff of the country's 40,025 barangays. The Barangay Incentives Act (HB 317), proposed by Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas, would cover all barangay executives and employees, including tanods and members of the barangay dispute mediator councils of Lupon Tagapamayapa.

The bill provides for the following tax-related privileges:

1. Exemption of their salaries, wages, and other emoluments, including allowances, and other "gross benefits received of whatever kind" from income taxation

2. Exclusion from capital gains and transfer taxes when they sell any real property that they own, as long as the proceeds from the sale are used directly and exclusively to acquire a house and lot, not exceeding 500 square meters, for a family dwelling

3. Exemption from national and local taxes and fees in connection with the transfer and registration of the new property in the name of the barangay official or employee

Other perks outlined by the bill include provisions for coverage and protection by the Government Service Insurance System and Philhealth - including life insurance, retirement, disability, separation, and unemployment benefits. If the barangay officials and workers will be involved in administrative or criminal cases as they are performing their official duties, the bill proposes that they be entitled to representation by counsel, as assigned by the Public Attorney's Office.

***

Vice President Jejomar Binay, in the same manner, urged both houses to speed up the enactment of these bills and has pointed out that the barangay officials' death benefits fund demands additional funds. He called the P50 million yearly appropriation in the national budget as "paltry and inadequate" in meeting the needs of half-million public servants. The fund used to help barangay officials has been nailed at that amount for years now despite the need to hike it due to the surge in the number of barangay officials killed in the line of duty. While P493 billion is earmarked in the 2010 budget for "the pay, premiums and pension" of current and former national government employees, the only item for barangay officials in the spending measure is the death benefits fund.

We spend P1.35 billion a day for the payroll of the bureaucracy. Or P56 million every hour. Thus, what we spend for barangay officials' benefits is comparable to one hour of payroll spending by the national government. And the irony of these measly benefits cannot be availed while they are still alive, but posthumously by their loved ones. The P56 million allocation "is grossly disproportionate," more so if viewed against this backdrop. There are 461,945 barangay officials compared to the 1.1 million national government workers, including those in the uniformed services. Unknown to many, the biggest segment in the public sector workforce are barangay officials and workers, which "conservatively" number almost a million, if tanods are included. Teachers are a far second.

***

In Valenzuela City, the Sangguniang Panlungsod passed a proposed ordinance which provides more benefits to barangay officials. The benefits for the barangay officials are contained in an Ordinance No. 001 series of 2010 also known as "Standard Barangay Officials and Welfare Benefits." The measure aims to provide additional benefits to barangay officials who can complete three successive terms in office. It provides some P100,000 to a barangay captain while some P30,000 will be provided to a barangay kagawad. Barangay officials who would be able to serve three terms in succession but in different positions would still be entitled to cash benefits. The cash gifts would depend on the position involved. Aside from this, hospitalized barangay officials would be given a P5,000 cash benefit. Families of departed barangay captains will be able to receive P50,000 while families of departed kagawads will be entitled to P25,000.

***

The Local Government Code of 1991 provides that, barangay officials shall be compensated in the form of honorarium at an amount not less than P1,000 per month for the Punong Barangay and P600 each per month for the Sangguniang Barangay members, Barangay Treasurer and Barangay Secretary. E. O. No. 332 provides that the rates of honorarium prescribed in Section 393 (a) of R.A. No. 7160 may be increased/ adjusted.

Aside from honorarium, barangay officials are also entitled to some benefits:

* Christmas bonus in the form of cash gift at the rate authorized by law which covers the Punong Barangay, Sangguniang Barangay members, Barangay Treasurer and Barangay Secretary

* Insurance coverage under RA 6942 for the Punong Barangay, Sangguniang Barangay members, Barangay Treasurer, Barangay Secretary and Barangay Tanods not exceeding twenty (20) in each barangay

* Medical care consisting of free hospitalization in government hospitals for the Punong Barangay, Sangguniang Barangay members, Barangay Treasurer and Barangay Secretary. In extreme emergency, the same officials may be confined in private hospitals with expenses chargeable against barangay funds not more than P5,000 per official

* Free tuition and matriculation fees in government schools in their area for Punong Barangay, Sangguniang Barangay members, Barangay Treasurer and Barangay Secretary including two of their legitimate dependent children during their term of office only

Barangay officials are not entitled to hazard duty pay even if the grant of which can be sustained by local income of the barangays concerned. They are not also entitled to RATA, PERA, PIB, and other forms of remuneration other than the honoraria and the cash gift at the rate duly authorized by law.

Furthermore, they are also not entitled to have 13th-month pay because it is not among the authorized benefits in the government since this is applicable only in the private sector. Pursuant to RA No. 7160, as implemented by BC No. 2000-18, barangay officials may be entitled to P5,000 cash gift each per year.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on December 09, 2010.

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