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441 NPO workers allocated only P6,000 budget for 2015

Government’s proposal for a P6,000 annual budget for the 441 employees of the National Printing Office (NPO) raised eyebrows among legislators during a budget hearing last Thursday.

Also leaving a number of solons incredulous was Malacañang’s decision to slash the judiciary’s proposed P32.3-billion budget for 2015 by at least P12 billion.

That leaves the judiciary, a co-equal branch of government, only P20.3 billion to spend next year. Meanwhile, another peer in power – the House of Representatives – threatened to restrict the judiciary’s use of the (JDF)Judiciary Development Fund with an annual collection of about P870 million.

“We believe the SC deserves the P12 billion funding to further guarantee judicial independence,” said Kabataan Parytlist Rep. Terry Ridon during the budget hearing for the judiciary allocation.

LOWEST BUDGET FOR JUDICIARY

Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva, who presented the judiciary budget, said the government’s budget allocation for the courts is the lowest under the Aquino administration which recently lost a Supreme Court decision in connection with the Disbursement Acceleration Program. (DAP).

P6,000 BUDGET FOR SALARIES

In another budget hearing, ACT Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio called the attention of the Presidential Communications Operations Office for proposing only P6,000 for the personnel services of the NPO. The agency has 441 employees.

“These are all regular national government agency employees. Obviously, their salaries and benefits for one whole year cannot possibly be paid for by a budget of P6,000,” Tinio said.

PCOO Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. explained that the proposal is in accordance with an arrangement made with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

AGENCY’S INCOME

Coloma said NPO operations, as well as salaries of its personnel, are paid by funds derived from the income generated by the agency.

The NPO is one of only two government entities authorized by law as the exclusive printer of the government’s accountable forms, including election ballots.

‘UNORTHODOX’

Describing the arrangement as “unorthodox,” Tinio questioned the legal basis for such an agreement.

SALARY STANDARDIZATION LAW

“In fact, the Salary Standardization Law mandates that all national government plantilla positions are to be funded by the General Appropriations,” he stated.

In the absence of any other legal ground, the arrangement between Coloma and the DBM is “unlawful,” the opposition solon said.

“The law says that the budget for personnel must be funded under the General Appropriations Act in order to guarantee that employees’ salaries, allowances, and benefits will be paid, no matter what. Paying their compensation from income exposes the employees and their families to unnecessary risk. This is unacceptable,” said Tinio.

Based on previous years’ budgets, the NPO would need approximately P150 million to pay the salaries, allowances, and benefits of their employees, he said.

Tinio asked the appropriation panel chaired by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab to require the DBM to explain.

REPORT FUNDING SOURCES

Earlier, the House appropriations panel ordered the SC to submit reports on all its funding sources not covered by the proposed 2015 national expenditures program.

Villanueva readily agreed to submit the reports on the JDF, the collection of mediation fees and the Special Allowance for the Judiciary.