Charlotte, North Carolina–As someone who used to work in government, albeit in the judiciary, I know all too well the travails faced by government employees who don't earn as much as those in the private sector.
Granted that government workers based in Cagayan de Oro and elsewhere in northern Mindanao earn better than most of their counterparts in the private sector owing to the Salary Standardization Law and the lower cost of living in the region, it's not the same as those working in major Manila-based companies.
So it is with no small amount of shock and sympathy on my part when I read news online about the deduction of benefits to retired City Hall employees in Cagayan de Oro or those about to retire from decades of service to the city.
The cause of the deductions is the allowances granted to them since 1993 up to 2010 during the administrations of the late mayor Pablo Magtajas and former mayor and now vice mayoral candidate Vicente Emano.
One such employee, Ruel Sabuero, reportedly went to the City Accounting Office to plead his case and I can imagine so did the other retirees whose benefits were cut by as much as P11,000 which is substantial for the average worker.
I also read online about City Administrator Teddy Sabuga-a's assurance to City Hall employees and department officials that their benefits received under the administration of Mayor Oscar Moreno have passed scrutiny by state auditors of the Commission on Audit (COA).
It doesn't take a political genius to know the reason behind these allowances and that is, to put it bluntly, to buy the loyalty of government employees. The painful part comes when the state auditors come knocking on their doors and inform them without mincing words that their benefits are illegal.
That said, I hold the opinion that any benefits to be given to government employees should not be done liberally or used to distribute the spoils of political victory much less to buy loyalty.
One such example as told to me by former Cebu Daily News editor Stephen Capillas is the calamity aid given to City Hall employees who supposedly suffered from the twin calamities of the earthquake and supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013.
Even if there was no substantial evidence proving that one City Hall employee in Cebu City sustained losses during these twin calamities, the P25,000 calamity aid was still distributed to City Hall employees and officials across the board.
As of now, there is reportedly a pending case on that issue at the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) regional office there.
Giving cash allowances and other benefits should be done only when the local government has prioritized and clearly set aside budgets for essential services and projects to their constituents.
These along with salaries pegged above minimum wage should be given to those fit and capable both physically and character wise to serve in government and not as rewards for political opportunists, overstaying appointed and elected officials and syncophants with no visible qualification other than being a political fanatic tp the appointing power.
Sadly that's not the case even with the so-called promise of “Change is Coming” made by the incumbent administration whose critics note with derisive disdain that the promise is all but a scam.
In fact dare I say it, the situation has progressively gotten worse with, among other things, an army of online trolls being paid government money to assault and threaten those critical of their lord and master.