SC holds oral arguments on pay scale for gov’t nurses

MANILA -- The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday heard a petition filed by a party-list group questioning conflicting legal provisions on the minimum entry level pay grade for government nurses.

Appearing in oral arguments before the tribunal, the Ang Nars Party-list group questioned before the SC an executive order issued by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declaring the entry level of Nurse 1 from Salary Grade (SG) 10 to SG 11.

Party-list Rep. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz pointed out that Section 32 of Republic Act 9173, also known as the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, places the minimum base pay of government nurses to not lower than Salary Grade 15.

Arroyo issued Executive Order (EO) No. 811 by virtue of a joint resolution issued by Congress in 2009 and authorized her to modify the compensation and position classification system of civilian personnel and the base pay schedule of uniformed personnel in the government.

Paquiz says Arroyo's executive order cannot validly repeal Section 32 of RA 9173 since only a law passed by Congress can repeal the latter.

Executive orders, administrative orders or circulars are not laws within the ambit of the Constitution, Paquiz pointed out.

Even assuming a Joint Resolution can become a law, it did not follow the one-subject rule for its title, she added.

SG 15 for civilian personnel of the national government and in first-class provinces and cities starts at P29,010 while Salary Grade 11 starts at PHP20,179.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio asked Paquiz whether the court can compel Congress or the Department of Budget and Management (BM) to fund the implementation of R.A. 9173 to which the latter admitted that it is within the jurisdiction of Congress.

In their petition, the partylist group specifically asked the Court to declare EO 811 null and void for being contrary to existing laws.

The party-list group is joined in the petition by the Public Services Labor Independent Confederation headed by Annie Geron.

Paquiz claimed that the DBM, through Assistant Director Edgardo Macaranas, acknowledged that there is a law providing for the entry level of government nurses to SG 15 but stated that the implementation of which will distort the hierarchical relationships of medical and allied positions in the bureaucracy and will require additional funding to the government coffers.

"By reducing the salary grade of nurses from salary grade 15 as provided for by RA 9173 to salary grade 11, Executive Order 811 has violated the principle of non-diminution of pay expressly provided for in Joint Resolution No. 4, the petition said.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), however, argued that the petitioners lack legal standing to question the validity of EO 811 and had violated the doctrine of hierarchy of courts.

"In this case petitioners have not identified their personal stake in the outcome of the controversy. They failed to establish how they would be directly affected by the implementation of EO 811. At most they are parties actively involved in the social concerns of nurses," the OSG said.

The OSG said that the petitioners skipped the doctrine which provides that lower courts must get a first crack in cases where it has jurisdiction.

"Here, petitioners failed to demonstrate that neither the Regional Trial Courts nor the Court of Appeals are capable of granting them the remedy they wish to obtain, assuming that they are entitled to it," the OSG added.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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