Is 100% salary increase under Joint Resolution No. 4 not applicable to devolved health workers? To better understand the controversy on the implementation of salary increase under the law, the following antecedent facts may be reviewed.
Under Republic Act no. 7160, basic health services were devolved to the LGUs, more specifically:
1) to the municipalities – the implementation of programs and projects on primary health care, maternal and child care, and communicable and non-communicable disease control services, access to secondary and tertiary health services; purchase of medicines, medical supplies, and equipment needed to carry out the services herein enumerated;
2) to the provinces- health services which include hospitals and other tertiary health services and
3) to the cities- the services and facilities same as that of municipalities and provinces. The maintenance of barangay health centers were devolved by law to the barangays.
The devolution includes the transfer to local government units the records, equipment, and other assets and personnel of the Department of Health corresponding to the devolved powers, functions, and responsibilities. Personnel were absorbed by the LGUs to which they belong or in whose areas they are assigned to the extent that it is administratively viable as determined by the oversight committee: Those who were not absorbed by the LGUs were retained by the DOH.
Republic Act no. 7305, otherwise known as the Magna Carta of Public of Health Workers became a law on March 26, 1992. It granted benefits to public health workers, such as night shift differential, hazard allowance, subsistence allowance, laundry allowance, longevity pay, remote assignment allowance, free medical examination, one salary grade increase three (3) months before compulsory retirement, salary grade 24 benchmark for rural health physicians and medico-legal services honorarium for rural health physicians.
In addition thereto, devolved health workers were receiving the same salary rates as that of national government employees prior to devolution.
Upon the other hand, organic personnel at the LGUs, including elective and appointive LGU officials, are only receiving salary rates depending on the income class of the LGU, usually less than the rates given to nationally paid health personnel. They are not entitled to Magna Carta benefits.
Despite the seemingly inequitable salary and benefits fixed for health workers and the LGU organic personnel, is it legal or unconstitutional to give the devolved health workers salaries that are not in accordance with the national rates? The answer is no.
Firstly, the salary rates enjoyed previously by devolved health workers were never amended or altered by R.A 7160 despite the fact that the salary rates for LGU organic personnel were fixed depending on the classification of the LGU. Thus, the national salary rates still apply for devolved health workers.
Secondly, section 8 of RA 7305 provides for the security of tenure of health workers. Security of tenure includes security to compensation. It follows therefore that the salary rates previously enjoyed by devolved health works cannot be amended even expressly by R.A 7160 without due process of law, as it will constitute as “constructive dismissal”.
Also, Joint Resolution no. 4 did not expressly amend the national salary rates for devolved health workers. Section 7 thereof expressly mentioned “the established rates” as basis for computation of proportional increase in case of partial salary increase. It provides:
“(7) Local Government Units-The salaries, wages, allowances and other emoluments and Benefits of officials and employees of LGUs shall be determined by their respective Sanggunians in accordance with the pertinent provisions of Republic Act no. 7160: Provided, The LGUs may, if their finances warrant, grant salary or wage adjustments to their personnel, subject to the personnel services limitation in LGU budgets under Republic Act no. 7160; Provided, further, That the grant of allowances and other benefits shall be subject to the said personal services limitation.
In case of partial implementation of salary or wage adjustments, the same shall be at uniform proportion of the established rates for all positions in each LGU.”
There being no modification on the salary rates for devolved health workers from national to local rates, the same national rates stay as the “established rates” for devolved health workers. In case of partial implementation therefore, the same rates become the basis for computation of proportional salary increase for devolved health workers and not the local rates.
Finally, assuming there is an express legal provision for modification of salary rates for devolved health workers, two constitutional provisions may be invoked against Joint Resolution no 4 or any law for that matter. First, a mere partial salary increase for devolved health workers may be in gross violation of the constitutional ‘equal protection’ clause as their national counterpart are getting hundred percent (100%) salary increase. Secondly, the employment of devolved health workers prior to devolution partakes of a contract with the government. In the first place, devolved health workers did not apply for positions at the LGUs to be employed in their devolved positions. Article III of the Philippine Constitution, Section 10 thereof provides that: “No law impairing the obligation of contracts shall be passed”.
Any provision of law, e.g R.A 7160 and Joint Resolution no 4., may be rendered unconstitutional therefore, if such provision deprives the devolved health workers the salary rates and benefits, including their increases, equivalent to that of their national counterparts.