Victims of politics

N. Vizcaya workers unpaid; politics blamed

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–The more than 1,000 officials and employees of the provincial government here are distressed over the non-payment of their salaries for July with delays widely blamed on “excessive” politicking by the province’s political leaders.

Employees said they felt demoralized after failing to receive their salaries on Friday afternoon, completing a one-week delay which, according to sources, is unprecedented in the history of the Nueva Vizcaya government.

“Our leaders seem oblivious of the fact that many, if not most of us live on a hand-to-mouth existence. We wish they would set aside political interests and start thinking about the families that are suffering,” said an employee, who asked not to be named for fear of harassment.

As news spread that salaries were not to be paid on July 20, workers in various offices visited by this writer at the provincial capitol looked distraught.

“My wife told me that our infant son had consumed the last of his milk formula this noon, but I had told her not to worry because I was going to get my pay later today. (The news about the delay) is really heart-breaking because we are deeply mired in debt already,” a male employee said in Filipino.

In random huddles, workers murmured about remedies on how their families can survive the coming week.

Another male employee said the delay still bothered him even if he only expects to receive P400 every payday, as bulk of his P12,000 salary goes to automatic deductions for loan payments.

A few casual and contractual workers, however, who were hired during the previous term of former Gov. Luisa Cuaresma and whose appointments have not been renewed, continued reporting for work as “volunteers” and were not expecting any pay.

Sources in the provincial government, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear, however, said that the workers’ salaries were delayed because provincial officials were instructed to await Gov. Ruth Padilla’s approval of the P876.2-million 2013 budget on July 18.

Since January, the provincial government has been operating on the “re-enacted budget” of 2012 because of the failure of the previous Sangguniang Panlalawigan, majority of whom are political rivals of Cuaresma, to pass the 2013 budget ordinance.

But just on their second session on Monday, the board, still dominated by Padilla allies, passed a “resubmitted” version of the 2013 budget, the provisions of which supposedly favored Padilla, raising allegations of alleged railroading.

The delay of salaries, sources said, was also allegedly meant to harass about 350 permanent employees who have refused to vacate their posts, despite an order from Gov. Ruth Padilla which revoked promotions and appointments made by her predecessor and political rival Cuaresma from 2007 to June 30, 2013.

This writer tried but failed to reach Padilla in her office on Friday. Board member Efren Quiben, sponsor of the 2013 budget ordinance also did not take calls made or reply to text messages sent to his mobile phone.

But Lawyer Voltaire Garcia, provincial legal officer, said the delay in the payment of salaries was caused by confusion as to which between the 2011 and 2012 budget ordinances would be used to support the salaries for the 15th of July, the first payment under the new Padilla administration.

“The courts had already declared the 2012 budget as null and void so we cannot use it anymore,” he said, referring to a court ruling which stemmed from a case filed last year by a number of board members.

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