‘Ruthlessness’

Chaos hits N. Vizcaya gov’t as 180 workers forced out of work

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Confusion and chaos continued to hound the provincial government here over attempts to remove from the payroll the names of 180 permanent employees who were allegedly terminated illegally by Gov. Ruth Padilla on July 1.

In the mad rush to release the already-delayed salaries of about 1,000 employees for the July 15 pay day, chiefs of office in the provincial government are bewildered over the legality of deleting the 180 employees from their payroll, after funds for their salaries were slashed from the newly-approved 2013 budget.

The officials expressed concern over possible legal action that they may face if they delete the employees’ names without any basis, since no order has emanated from the office of the governor to delist the employees from the payroll.

“It is disheartening that we (chiefs of office) are the ones being used as pawns here,” said an official, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

Most of the 180 employees, whose entry-level appointments and promotions were “revoked, recalled and withdrawn” by Padilla on her first day in office, have since continued to report for work, saying only the Civil Service Commission (CSC), not the governor, has the authority to pass upon and revoke their appointments should it find any defect in their issuance.

They alleged that Padilla’s Executive Order No. 3 was politically motivated, as it supposedly targetted appointments approved by then Gov. Luisa Cuaresma, her political rival. Padilla had denied the allegations.

In July 15, the SP, in support of Padilla’s EO, passed the province’s 2013 budget but “unfunded” the allocation for salaries for positions with appointments approved by Cuaresma from January to June 30, the end of the former governor’s term. The ordinance was also made to have retroactive effectivity from January 1.

The province’s fiscal officers, however, expressed doubt on the legality of removing the employees’ names from the payroll.

But aside from the non-payment of employees’ salaries, officials are likewise restless over the penalties that the delay has incurred against the provincial government concerning regular remittances such as withholding taxes and contributions that are deducted monthly from the workers’ gross pay.

On Tuesday afternoon, officials led by lawyer Voltaire Garcia, provincial legal officer, explained in an emergency meeting that the “legal implications” of the “unfunding” would be to have the names of the employees removed from the payroll.

“We are mandated to respect the spirit of the law which the (Sangguniang Panlalawigan) wanted to include in that ordinance, which is completely within the competence and authority of the SP to provide,” he said.

Garcia said the employees should now consider re-applying for the positions that they occupy and let the new administration “correct previous mistakes” in their questioned appointments.

Manuel Tabora, assistant provincial budget officer, said his office had no choice but to recommend to chiefs of office to strike out the employees’ names from the payroll as they could not certify the availability of funds for their salaries due to the “unfunding” provision contained in the province’s 2013 appropriation ordinance, which Padilla approved for implementation only on July 18.

But affected employees questioned the “patent irregularity” of the ordinance, which they said, violates the provision of the Local Government Code which mandates that career positions which are actually occupied should be allocated with sufficient funds.

They likewise assailed the manner by which their names were stricken off from the payroll without due process of law.

In Tuesday’s forum, they also appealed for compassion from the province’s political leaders, saying that the governor should set aside political vendetta and give them a chance to show their dedication to service during her term.

For her part, lawyer Marites Lappay, CSC provincial director, said that under existing civil service laws, the affected workers’ appointments remain valid until these are revoked by the commission.

She added that her office was not furnished a copy of Padilla’s order.

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