NEWS: SP sued by Kapalong employees for blocking COLA payment

NEWS

By Cha Monforte

The Sanguniang Panlalawigan of Davao del Norte has been ordered within ten days since Monday by a regional trial court in Tagum City to answer to a case filed in connection to the P1.8 million worth of cost of living allowance claimed by the municipal employees of Kapalong town for a previous five-year period which the legislative council disallowed last year.

RTC-Branch 31 Judge Danilo Belo ruled Thursday last week as “sufficient in form and substance” the petition for declaratory relief and mandamus filed by the Kapalong United Employees Association (Kulea) represented by its president Crispiniano Tayong and ordered Vice Governor Victorio Suaybaguio as the SP representative to file comment.

As this developed, the provincial board upon receiving of the court’s order during Monday’s session immediately moved to authorize provincial legal officer Jennifer Namoc to represent them.

Atty. Namoc, in an interview, said she is fast readying the legal answer of the SP adding that she could submit it before the July 24 court deadline.

In petition for declaratory relief, the Kapalong employees had asked for a court order and judgment for the payment of the cost of living allowance worth P1,799,476 which was withheld from them from July 1, 1989 until May 3, 2004 .

Petitioner Kulea also asked the court to issue writ of mandamus to order the SP to allow for the payment to their COLA back claims whose disbursement was blocked by the legislative body when it enacted its Resolution No. 664 on December 10, 2007 .

The provincial board in that resolution approved and confirmed the municipal supplemental budget ordinance but disallowed the provision of the employees’ COLA back-claim appropriation, citing the Department of Budget and Management Circular No. 2001-03 dated November 12, 2001 .

But Kulea assailed SP’s invocation of said DBM circular claiming that COLA was not among those deemed included and integrated in the standardized salary rates and advanced that from July 1, 1989 up to May 3, 2004 the Kapalong employees are entitled to be paid of their COLA citing various pertinent DBM circulars and contravening Supreme Court rulings.

In what could appear as another precedent-setting case which has implications to COLA claims of local government employees nationwide within the period from July 1, 1989 to May 3, 2004 , Kulea argued that it is in this period when local government employees are entitled to receive COLA.

July 1, 1989 was when Republic Act No. 6758 was enacted into law and May 3, 2004 was the date of the publication of National Compensation Circular No. 59 dated September 30, 1989 within which the complainant said there was fortiori and a legal limbo .

Kulea also invoked the case of Bislig City Employees Association versus the City Government of Bislig involving the same issue and claim of COLA which the Regional Trial Court-Branch 29 in Bislig City ruled in favor to the employees.

On August 31, 2007, the Kapalong municipal sanggunian enacted the supplemental budget ordinance where the P1.8-million COLA under the item personnel services of the offices of the mayor and vice mayor.

Last December 10, 2007 the SP through Resolution No. 664 approved the Kapalong budget measure but disallowed its COLA provision.

On March 30 this year Kapalong Mayor Edgardo Timbol made Motion for Reconsideration (MR) to the SP on its Resolution No. 664 but the SP’s joint committee on finance and laws subsequently denied Timbol’s MR last April 30.

Last July 1 Kulea went to court and ten days after it got Judge Belo’s favorable order. (Cha Monforte/Rural Urban News) http://ruralurbanews.blogspot.com

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