MANILA, Philippines – There could be more resignations at the Bureau of Immigration if the government does not address the salary woes of the BI's workers, the head of the bureau's union group told Rappler on Monday, April 3.
“More is coming if our appeal to the President is not favorably acted upon,” Gregorio Sadiasa, head of the employees' union Buklod-CID, said in a text message.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said that 32 immigration personnel have resigned since President Rodrigo Duterte slashed the BI’s budget. The Chief Executive vetoed the longtime practice of the agency to use the airport express lane charges to augment its workers’ salaries. (READ: Duterte's veto leaves thousands of BI workers scrambling for money)
Aguirre’s 32 figure is 6 more than the initial 26 count of the BI Personnel Department when Rappler interviewed the office on March 19. At the time, only 26 had resigned from the period of January to March.
BI spokesperson Antonette Mangrobang confirmed there are continued resignations, but could not immediately verify the specific details.
Apart from resignations, BI workers have also filed mass leaves of absences and skipped workdays at the airport. Some are asking for their certificates of employment, indicating they are looking for other jobs, since the BI ceased being able to dip into the express lane fund.
When Duterte signed the 2017 national budget, he amended the BI budget so that the profits from the express lane fund go straight to the national treasury. The fund was previously used to pay overtime to regular employees, and to help pay the salaries of contractual workers.
Since January, regular employees have been receiving slashed salaries because they no longer have overtime pay, while contractual workers have been receiving salaries slashed in half and have been receiving them late.
Aguirre said the resignations and the absences of BI personnel do not only endanger national security, they also discourage tourists from going to the country because of the long queues at the airport as a result of unmanned stations.
“This will also affect our economy in general, that’s why we need to find an immediate solution,” Aguirre said.
In an interview over GMA News TV’s Balitanghali, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno said that the overtime pay sought by the regular employees are illegal.
“Nagmamatigas sila na gusto pa nila 'yung old setup 30 years ago na everybody will receive an extra pay that is against the law. Sa batas, ang overtime mo should not exceed 50% of your regular pay. Sila nakakatanggap sila 5 times ng regular pay nila,” Diokno said.
(They are bent on enforcing a 30-year-old setup, where everybody will receive an extra pay that is against the law. Under the law, your overtime should not exceed 50% of your regular pay. They were receiving 5 times worth their regular pay.)
Rappler was able to talk to two immigration officers, who said they used to receive around P30,000 to P50,000 a month, but, since the veto, have been receiving only P16,000.
This was confirmed by BI personnel chief Grifton Medina, who said that the lowest salary grade worker receives as little as P6,000 net pay. He explained this because their law is outdated, referring to the Immigration Act of 1940, which has yet to be amended.
Due to the low salary grades, then immigration commissioner Miriam Defensor Santiago instituted the policy of taking from the express lane charges to augment the salary of the workers.
Sadiasa insisted that the use of express lane charges to pay their overtime is legal under Section 7-A of the immigration law.
The 1940 provision provides that overtime can be paid by “shipping companies and airlines and other persons served.” The “other persons served” in this instance refers to passengers who pay extra to use the express lane.
“Alam mo kasi and nature ng work nila, job orders. 'Yung pagmamatigas nila, they can be replaced anytime. If they don’t report for work, they can be replaced anytime. Job orders sila eh, contractual positions,” Diokno said.
(The nature of their work is job orders. If they continue to insist they can be replaced anytime. If they don't report for work, they can be replaced anytime. They're job orders, contractual positions.)
The BI, the DOJ, the DBM are in talks with the Office of the President to come up with a solution. The Bureau of Immigration is is under the DOJ.
According to Aguirre, Secretary to the Cabinet Leoncio Evasco Jr has stepped in to help find a win-win arrangement. Aguirre said he is also working on taking it up with the President himself. – Rappler.com