MANILA, Philippines – “Draw your attention to the plight of the more than 5,000 rank and file employees of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).”
This is the message of Mac Ramirez, the National President of the Comelec Employees’ Union (Comelec-EU) to president-elect Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
In an open letter posted on Facebook on Saturday, May 14, Ramirez shared how, despite helping guard the mandate of the democracy through the electoral exercise, the “foot soldiers of Comelec” are “paid with ridiculously low wages that are scandalously disproportionate to this very crucial role.”
According to its website, the Comelec-EU is the largest organization of COMELEC rank and file employees nationwide, with members from the central and field offices such as election officers, and election assistants.
Citing the unprecedented success indicators of the recent polls such as the voter turnout of more than 81% and the electronic transmission rate of more than 96%, Ramirez said that these are proof of their efforts, patience and hard labor.
“We are mighty proud to be an integral part of this very historic electoral exercise, with you emerging as the indisputable frontrunner for the Philippine presidency,” Ramirez added.
Ramirez lamented, however, that despite this the Comelec employees receive wages that are lower compared to their counterparts in other government agencies.
For example, an election officer 1 who is responsible for conducting the elections in a district receives a monthly salary of only P20,651 ($443.98) or Salary Grade 12.
“An example of an election officer’s counterpart in a municipality include municipal treasurers (who are) paid with a monthly salary of P56,610 ($1,217) and with a Salary Grade (SG) Level 24,” Ramirez said.
But this is nothing compared to the plight of casual employees who receive a monthly salary of P9,000 ($193.49). According to Ramirez, casual employees in Comelec perform various tasks “that are vital and essential to the Commission.”
Not just Comelec
Joining the call for a monthly P16,000 ($344) national minimum wage, Ramirez said that their current salary is not enough to cover household expenses. In fact, Ramirez said that some employees resort to pawning their ATM cards just to make ends meet.
“The recently implemented Salary Standardization Law IV did not address the sorry situation of ordinary rank and file employees in government,” Ramirez added.
In February 2015, President Benigno Aquino III signed the executive order (EO) granting a pay hike for government workers and additional benefits for civilian and military uniformed personnel. The EO provides for the implementation of the first of 4 tranches under the proposed Salary Standardization Law 2015 or SSL 4 that has not been enacted by Congress. The bicameral conference committee in February 2016 failed to reconcile differences over the proposed law.
Under the senate version of the SSL4, the minimum basic salary for civilian government personnel, those falling under Salary Grade 1 or “Administrative Aide,” would be raised from P9,000 to P11,068 ($193.49 to $237.96).
“Please stay true to your word to end the plague of contractualization and casualization in the country and work for the regularization of their employment and tenure in service,” Ramirez said.
During the campaign season, Duterte vowed to end contractualization, adding that the particular labor policy is not suited for a country like the Philippines.
Will president-elect Duterte be able to end contractualization and address the plight of rank and file employees under his term? The country has the next 6 years to find out. – With a report from Raisa Serafica/ Rappler.com
*$1 = P46.51