Gov't nurses must get higher basic pay, SC rules

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The Supreme Court has voted in favor of government nurses and entitled them to a higher basic pay, which is now worth over ₱30,000.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 9) — Government nurses secured a victory from the Supreme Court, which ruled on Tuesday that they are entitled to a higher basic pay.

In a statement, the high court said nurses working for public hospitals and health offices must be paid with the monthly rate for Salary Grade (SG) 15, four ranks higher than their current SG 11 category.

The SC en banc sided with the Ang Nars Party List, which sought clarification in 2015 regarding two conflicting provisions setting the minimum pay for nurses.

Then party-list Representative Leah Samaco-Paquiz initially wrote to the Department of Health, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Budget and Management to sort out the situation, but decided to run to the SC with a petition for certiorari when the matter was not resolved. Questioned before the court are provisions of the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 and of Executive Order (EO) 811 issued by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2009.

READ: The burden of being a public health worker in the Philippines

Under Section 32 of Republic Act 9173 or the Nursing Act — which was also signed into law by Arroyo — the minimum basic pay of state-employed nurses "shall not be lower than salary grade 15." However, the President's EO issued seven years later pegged the basic pay of a Nurse I to SG 11. The case went through oral arguments in February.

Based on the latest tranche of salary increases that took effect this year, a Nurse I receives just ₱20,754 to a maximum of ₱22,829 in a month under SG 11. The SC ruling will bring their basic bay to at least ₱30,531, and eligible for increases up to ₱33,279.

"In ruling in favor of the petitioners, the Court ruled that Joint Resolution No. 4, being a mere resolution, cannot amend or repeal a prior law such as RA 9173 or the Philippine Nursing Act. The same applies to EO 811 which is also not a law, but an executive directive," the SC Public Information Office said.

Even though the high court said that government-employed nurses are eligible for the higher pay, it stopped short of ordering agencies to pay the difference.

The high cout said it cannot grant Ang Nars' request to compel the implementation of higher salaries, as it would "necessarily require a law passed by Congress providing the necessary funds for it."

Salaries for nurses and other government workers are covered by the yearly national budget, which is deliberated by Congress and referred to Malacañang for signing into law. It also prescribes how many job positions are available for each agency and at what rate the workers will be paid.

In a separate briefing, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said he is fully supportive of the move "if there is money to fund it."

"That is now the DBM's call because it is easy to say: yes, we will give you higher salary, we will give you more money... At the end of the day, meron bang pondo [do we have funding]?," Duque said.

A day before the release of the SC decision, the group Filipino Nurses United — national organization of nurses — demanded a minimum salary of ₱30,000 for all of its members employed in both public and private hospitals.