Jinggoy flip-flop on wages

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — SENATOR Jinggoy Estrada yesterday vowed to defer sponsorship of the bill seeking a P125 across-the-board wage increase after a congressman sought the recall of the wage increase bill earlier approved in the House of Representatives.

Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla explained that he merely wanted to correct potential legal infirmities of the bill before it could reach the bicameral conference committee.

Because of Remulla’s motion, Estrada said he would rather wait for the House action on the bill before he sponsors his own version of the measure in the Senate.

“I could sponsor it anytime but why would I do it? I would wait for the action of the House,” Estrada said. Unless the House transmits the bill to the Senate, it would be useless to sponsor the measure. Despite warning about the possible dire consequence of the House version of the wage hike bill to the economy, Estrada said on Monday that his committee has decided to adopt the version of the House.

Estrada was set to sponsor the proposed bill Monday in time with the resumption of Congress’ sessions following a month-long Christmas break.

Last Dec. 20, the House approved House Bill 345, granting the P125 wage hike in three tranches: P45 increase in daily wage in the first year, P40 on the second, and P40 on the third year.

Estrada said he cannot do anything if President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would veto the measure. Malacañang earlier expressed its objection over the P125 wage hike bill the House has approved.

“That is not my problem if Mrs. Arroyo would veto it. Even during the hearing in the House of Representatives, they [Malacañang] were always objecting against the passage of the bill,” Estrada said.

Estrada said he would rather have Malacañang tackle the issue and suffer the backlash.

“I’d rather pass the buck to the Palace because they [the workers] might just blame the Senate for inaction,” he said.

Earlier, Estrada said the passage of the wage bill was a means for the House to score points at the expense of the upper chamber.

“I think it was a blackmail on the part of the House of Representatives. Why? Because when they passed the P125 across-the-board increase, they know fully well that our economy will collapse,” Estrada said.

“If we in the Senate do not act on this, the congressmen would point again to the Senate and say that the Senate is not doing anything, or that the Senate does not want to pass the measure.”

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives’ economic think-tank has endorsed a P125 wage increase spread over five years and not over a three-year period as proposed in the House and Senate-approved versions of the measure.

The Congressional Planning and Budget department explained that the approved proposals of P40 for 2007, P40 in 2008, and P45 in 2009 will result in a 5 percent yearly increase in the cost of goods and services.

“This means that House Bill 345 will likely lead to a cost-push inflation impact of anywhere between 4 percent and 5 percent on top of the current inflation rate of 6.3 percent,” said director general Rodolfo Vicerra in a memorandum for all members of Congress.