Official takes up nurses’ case

President Duterte was urged Friday to reverse the demotion by the Department of Budget and Management of tens of thousands of government nurses, including those employed by local government units throughout the country.

“Intervention by the President is the fastest way to rectify the injustice done to our nurses, who are at the forefront of our fight against Covid-19. I am sure that if this matter is brought to his attention, he will act fast,” Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor said.

Defensor said while rectification could be done through legislation or the filing of a new case in court, “it would take time, years perhaps, before the demotion of our nurses is reversed and they finally get justice.”

He lamented that the DBM downgraded the nurse positions “at a critical time, when the country is battling a crippling pandemic.”

Defensor says the downgrading is contained in DBM Budget Circular 2020-4, which implements the ruling of the Supreme Court that government nurses are entitled to Salary Grade 15 entry-level pay (P33,575) under the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, instead of the P21,000 Salary Grade 11 compensation they have been receiving.

The ruling, made in a case filed by party-list group Ang Nars, became final last December.

“Our nurses waited for almost 20 years to receive the minimum salary they are entitled to under the law. But the DBM has undermined the Supreme Court ruling and the law by demoting most of our nurses,” Defensor said.

Under the DBM circular, Defensor said, Nurse II positions were “modified” to Nurse I, Nurse III to Nurse II, Nurse IV to Nurse III, Nurse V to Nurse IV, Nurse VI to Nurse V, and Nurse VII to Nurse VI.

“The Budget department was right in complying with the SC ruling and the law by fixing the minimum pay for government nurses at Salary Grade 15 (Nurse I). But instead of adjusting salaries for Nurse II and other senior positions at least a grade higher, the DBM downgraded them so that Nurse II became Nurse I,” he said.

He said the DBM circular “is most unfair to Nurse II holders because they were already receiving Salary Grade 15 pay, which should have been upgraded to at least Salary Grade 16 (P36,628) or an increase of P3.053.”

He added that personnel holding Nurse II positions, who have a job experience of at least three years with their present employer-hospital, were lumped with new recruits at Nurse I and Salary Grade 15.

“Apparently, the DBM wanted to avoid upgrading the pay levels of senior nurses to save money by demoting them but maintaining their salary grades so that they don’t suffer a pay diminution, which the law prohibits,” Defensor said.

He said he could appreciate DBM’s desire to save funds, especially at this time of pandemic,

“But it should not be on salaries. It should be on non-essential expenses like travel, for which there is P18 billion in the 2021 budget, training and scholarship, for which there is an allocation of P39 billion, donations (P50 billion), and supplies and materials, P158 billion),” he said.

He said the DBM decision to demote senior nurses “is legally and morally questionable and should be rectified immediately.”

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