By Joseph Cuevas
Government employees raised alarms over a new budget circular instructing agencies to realign their budget for Covid-19 programs, saying the new measure is anti-labor and anti-poor.
In an online press conference Tuesday, June 9, the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) said Department of Budget and Management (DBM) National Budget Circular (NBC) No. 580 would only result in mass layoffs and budget cuts to programs and services for the people.
The new DBM measure, dubbed the Adoption of Economy Measures in Government Due to the Emergency Health Situation, was issued last April 12.
It derives legal basis from Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan Act of 2020 that gave emergency powers to President Duterte to raise and realign funds for government’s efforts against Covid-19.
Section 4.3 of the circular orders the discontinuance of hiring of job orders except those considered as frontliners during the ongoing state of public health emergency, COURAGE said.
The National Housing Authority (NHA) initially released a memorandum effecting the circular but, after a dialogue with union members, issued an addendum assuring that no workers would be affected.
COURAGE also said government agencies are realigning or have already realigned their work and financial plans to comply with the circular, sacrificing many social service programs and poverty alleviation plans.
Among such programs may include the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan (KALAHI) and Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), COURAGE revealed.
COURAGE national president Santiago Dasmariñas Jr. said as many as 600,000 government employees all over the country, especially job-order and contractual employees, are worried.
Dasmariñas said COURAGE wrote DBM Secretary Wendel Angel Avisado last April 29 to express opposition to the circular, particularly DBM’s plans to reduce or remove funds for government employees’ wages.
“The COS, JO workers, and the like, need their wages now, more than ever, in this time of pandemic caused by the COVID-19. And it will be an injustice if the budget intended for their wages shall be SLASHED and cut which will result to their eventual termination from work,” COURAGE’s letter states. #