In recognition of Science and Technology as an essential element for attainment of national development and progress, the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines signed and pass in December 1997 and took effect in February 1998 the Republic Act 8439 (RA 8439) known as “Magna Carta for scientists, engineers, researchers and other Science and Technology personnel in government”.
Rule II of the implementing rules and regulations of the Act stipulates the benefits to be received by the DOST employees which will be funded through the appropriations or savings of the department, agency or office concerned. As such, benefits to be received by employees thus depend on the savings of each agency. Consequently, each agency takes measures to allot budget for the benefits due to their employees.
For several years, scientists, engineers, researchers and other DOST personnel only receive portion of the benefits. The longevity pay (Sec 2.7) and the compulsory free medical examination (Sec 2.8) are not provided.
This year, DBM disallowed the implementation of RA 8439 specifically on the provision of benefits to the DOST employees even when the funding is available. All benefits- subsistence allowance, laundry allowance, hazards pay, etc. are denied to the scientists, engineers, researcher and other S&T personnel. DBM justify their action as they see the need to balance and harmonize the implementation of the provisions of the Act with the availability of government financial resources and to enforce rules on use of funds, particularly savings.
No matter how they justify it, the action of DBM caused to further the agony of the DOST employees. The sad plight of our scientists was given attention when PAGASA employees, who no longer can take such treatment by DBM, made public their protest. Because of the attention given by the media and the public to the issue, DBM released the budget to cover the benefits of PAGASA employees from March to June 2012. Secretary Abad has issued statement for “strict compliance with Magna Carta rules for the second semester of 2012”. Apparently, as of this writing, they are being strict but not complying.
The DOST Head Office has been convincing DBM and is complying with their requirements to implement RA 8439 but to no avail. DBM is yet to take action to comply with the Act. Instead, DBM has drafted an amendment of the Act that is deemed offensive and insulting to the DOST employees as it reflects how they devalue our scientists.
In the proposed amendment:
1. The subsistence allowance is valued at P150/day for 3 meals if actual service spans 3 meal times (breakfast, lunch and supper), due to overtime service rendered. P100/day if service spans two meals and P50/day if actual service is 8 hours. This practically means P50/8 hours or P50/meal for our scientists. But if a personnel is not required to make his service available at all times such that he can leave during break-times, he is not entitled to receive this benefit. In short, no break-time for straight 8 hours to receive the P50 subsistence allowance.
2. Laundry allowance is valued at P150/month to cover the cost for washing and pressing personal protective clothing and uniforms that will provide required degree of protection while reassuring clients of their professionalism, competency and identity. Who will accept to wash and press such clothing and receive only P150/month? The value could get lower if and when one does not complete the 22 working days.
It is to be noted that the provision of the benefits is still subject to the availability of funds and that the use of savings is still to be approved by DBM. This practically means DBM WILL CONTROL IMPLEMENTATION OF RA 8439.
The disallowance or non-implementation of RA 8439 agonized the DOST employees causing them to craft ways to make ends meet. Employees started walk their way to work. Some chose not to go to work when money is not enough. Employees are deeply in debt.
Disappointed, disgusted and demoralized, DOST employees are seriously considering early retirement, resignation, and working abroad. BRAIN DRAIN IS INEVITABLE.
Is this how we value our scientists? P50/meal?
As one employee would say, “Puro na lang ba pasensya sa siyensya?”