President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday, August 23, that he was urging Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to double the salary of soldiers by December.
Duterte said this in front of newly promoted generals and flag officers in Malacañang.
“Before I start, I’ve been egging Secretary Ben Diokno to really see to it that by December, all of the salaries of the soldiers have been doubled already, nauna kayo,” he said.
This is a repeat of his earlier promise before the soldiers in Cebu when he said, “By December, you’d have doubled your salaries. This August, umpisa na, ngayong August. Tingnan ninyo iyang pay checks ninyo. Nandiyan na iyan.”
But on August 11, Diokno said that the government cannot keep Duterte’s promise to increase the soldiers’ salary by August, adding that there is no allocation in the 2016 national budget for the salary hike.
He brought up Duterte’s promise of doubling the soldiers’ take home pay during a Senate hearing on the Salary Standardization Law, but said that the government would not be able to keep that promise within the year.
“We cannot promise (an increase) this August because, as you know, there is nothing in the budget for that,” Diokno said in reply to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s question.
So when might the government be able to deliver on the President’s promise?
In an ambush interview on August 11, Diokno said that a 100 percent salary increase for soldiers and policemen may be expected by January 2018.
“Doable ‘yun. I think maintindihan ng mga pulis ‘yan hindi naman one time ‘yun. Pangako naman niya (Duterte) hindi bukas. In fact, at the present ang trajectory ko d’yan January 2018 doable na ang sweldo,” he told the media.
He added that the law enforcers would get an incremental increase by the last quarter of 2016.
“May mga movement. Hindi naman pwedeng jump ka kaagad sa gusto mo,” Diokno said.
Trillanes calls out Duterte for making promises left and right
During the Senate hearing, Trillanes said that he was “surprised” when he heard about Duterte telling servicemen they can enjoy a salary increase by August and make two times their current salary by December.
“As you know, the soldiers are holding on to the word of their Commander-in-Chief… Pipila yung mga sundalo sa ATM (this August), ‘di ba?” said Trillanes after he asked Diokno if Duterte’s promise was feasible.
He added, “You better advise your president because he’s been making commitments and promises left and right. Ayaw nating masira yung credibility niya, na he’s just a big talker.”
“Noong sinabing ‘August meron na kayo, incremental increase,’ palakpakan yung mga sundalo eh. Then there is our DBM secretary saying it’s not gonna happen,” Trillanes said.
“Let us not play with the emotions of the soldiers. They don’t deserve that. Don’t make promises you cannot keep,” the senator added.
But Diokno reasoned that he did not want to violate the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) rule just to keep Duterte’s promise. “You cannot spend on something that is not authorized by Congress.”
The Budget Secretary added that despite not having the budget for the promised pay hike, the policemen and servicemen will still receive “supplement.”
“We are doing everything we can at the moment. In fact, we’re trying to supplement their income, one way or the other,” he said.
He noted that the government might give the uniformed personnel “rice allowance of 20 kilos per month every month.”
Diokno said, as reported by GMA News Online, that adjusting the pay and creating a better pension system of uniformed personnel would be a “huge cost that we probably have to think very carefully.”
Soldiers, police will receive an increase from Aquino’s EO 201
On July 14, Diokno said that the P3.35 trillion proposed budget for 2017 did not include an allocation for doubling the state forces’ salary.
He added, though, that the soldiers and police would receive a salary increase next year as part of the second tranche of the Salary Standardization Law signed by former President Benigno Aquino III. On February 19, Aquino signed Executive Order No. 201 providing for the pay hike for government workers as well as additional benefits for civilian and military uniformed personnel.
According to a Rappler report, the EO provides for the first 4 tranches under the proposed Salary Standardization Law 2015 (SSL 4) that was not enacted by Congress.
He also said he would propose to Congress to pass a joint resolution to implement the four tranches of salary increase for government employees, including public school teachers.
Diokno added that as mandated by the Constitution, “congressional action” is necessary for salary adjustment.
He noted that Aquino’s EO on the first tranche salary increase may be adopted by Duterte’s administration to push through with the pay hike.
“It will be continued… Our preference is to have it adopted as a joint resolution by Congress by four tranches. The second tranche is already in the 2017 budget,” Diokno said.