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MANILA - It's not just the Social Security System (SSS) pension hike that the public will probably have to drop for now.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II on Monday said even the proposed Salary Standardization Law (SSL) 4 is now at risk of a veto, or be caught in a deadlock between the 2 houses of Congress, both of which could result in freeing up some P57 billion of the government's 2016 budget for realignment by the executive.

"Ang problema kasi, early on talagang sinabihan na kami ng executive na talagang 'di makakaya," he said. "Besides, iyung pag index, you have to understand ano ba purpose ng SSL 4. This time around, ang SSL 4 'di lang taasan iyung pera na tinatanggap ng mga empleyado for 4 years but more than that, ito mga sinasabi ng Makabayan na ang liit ng sweldo na ibinibibigay sa Salary Grade (SG) 11. Samantala, malaki binibigay sa SG 12 pataas, particularly SG 21 lalo tumataas because ang intention ng SSL 4 is to keep mga senior level na nasa pamahalaan."

"Halimbawa, ang isang pagkakaalam ko, sabi sa akin ni (Budget Secretary) Butch Abad, kung halimbawa isang nagretire na chief of staff because of the indexation na kasalukuyan tumatanggap na ng P90,000, pag natapos yung 4 na tier, magiging P280,000 a month na ang matatanggap because tinaasan yung level na increase sa SG 21 pataas. Iyun ang magiging epekto."


WATCH: PAGASA, DOST employees protest SS
The bicameral conference committee tasked to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill are deadlocked over an insertion of the Senate to index the pension of retired uniformed personnel to the SSL, which means their pensions will be matched with the salaries of their active counterparts.

However, the problem is that there are no funds for the indexation, since the budget for the first tranche of the SSL of around P57 billion is already law under the 2016 budget.

The indexation is going to cost an additional P19 billion. What complicates things is that since this is not a budget measure, President Aquino cannot do a line item veto--which means if he wants to veto it because it is not completely funded, then he will have to veto the entire bill.

"Heto naman, actually technically hanggang Friday pa kami," Gonzales said. "Hihintayin namin kung ano ang magiging resulta. I'm sure magkakaroon ng resulta. After all, after bicam, ira-ratify lang naman iyan sa baba. Ayes and nayes lang."

That is of course assuming Congress gets out of its current deadlock over the indexation.

Either way, non-implementation of the SSL means the budget allotted for it becomes savings that can be realigned by the executive.

HOW DEADLOCK BEGAN
Gonzales explained how the deadlock began.

"Originally kasi the SSL 4 , we approved it one week ahead of the Senate on 3rd reading. Sila, they approved the same the last Monday of the week that we were supposed to adjourn last December. So, meron lang may to my recollection, meron lang 2 provisions na pwede magkaroon ng paper bicam. In fact, we already elected our respective nominees. I myself was included at nagkaroon kami ng paper bicam. The intention was ayusin lang iyung phraseology, innocuous provisions na magkaiba ng pag-construct ng sentence," he said.

"The request of the DBM was to change the error. In one provision, inilagay salary grade 27 instead of 28. Ako nakapirma doon and considering we were supposed to adjourn na by Wednesday, I thought we will be able to ratify it considering it's not a certified bill."

Gonzales also explained why a compromise agreement got stuck. "Ang solution that the Senate was offering na headed by Senator Trillanes is lagyan na lang ng colatilla that i-maintain ang pagtanggal sa aming suspension ng indexation. Lagyan na lang ng subject to availability of funds. But in budgetary legislation, mahirap ka gumawa ng batas, na sasabihin gagawa ka ng batas pero nakalagay 'subject to availability of funds'."

Gonzales said the Senate appears not to have studied the proposal thoroughly.
He said a member of the bicam panel, former Budget Secretary Nonoy Andaya who is now Camarines Sur representative, said President Aquino can perform executive action if all else fails. But it will be paltry.

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