BOCEA, COA in ‘war of words’ over benefit hike

ON a recent visit to our good friends at the BOC Employees Association (BOCEA) office, I was glad to learn that despite many ‘difficulties’ in managing a “diverse” group of people such as the customs employees, this union that yours truly helped to organise in the early ‘90s, is remaining “true to form,” so to speak.

“True to form,” that is, in serving the welfare and interest of the ordinary rank and file such as those assigned at the bureau’s “XIP” (X-Ray Inspection Project).

Now, I don’t know if Comm. Jagger Guerrero or his able “mistah” from PMA Class 1984 at the IAG, Gen. Donato San Juan (who is now also Comm. Jagger’s “acting chief of staff,” so I heard) were aware of it, but last May 23, those assigned at the XIP sent a letter to the OCCOM, for an increase in their ‘overtime pay and subsistence allowance.’

“Humbly, we the personnel from the EG, CIIS and the XIP normally work more than 12 hours daily, under 24/7 environment, and on an ‘on-call’ basis, which includes (the) holiday seasons,” part of the petition explained.

And considering that their counterparts in other agencies like the BFP, the BJMP and the PNP are now already receiving a daily subsistence allowance of P130 per day, they deemed their request justified— those at the BoC are only receiving, at present, the niggardly rate of P30 per day, wahhh!

Now knowing how the government bureaucracy works, the resident COA auditor, thru Ms. Marilyn Miran, was quick to douse cold water to the concerned employees by immediately listing down the (legal) reasons why they should NOT get the entitlement they are requesting, hehehe, ayy, huhuhu!

In reply to the query sent to COA by our good friend, current BOCEA president, Rommel Francisco, last June 11, Miran, on June 28, “fired off,” so to speak, four reasons why these frontline employees should be ‘contented’ with the P30 per day they are getting from the government’s second largest source of revenue.

From those four COA “arguments,” they appear to center mainly on the COA’s view that those in the CIIS, ESS and the XIP are “military and uniformed personnel.”

In plain language, under Budget Circular 2005-04, they are “soldiers” whose entitlement to ‘hazard pay’ is because they are deployed to “strife-torn or embattled areas,” or, again, in plain language, combat zones.

I find this exchange of letters between the BOCEA and the COA quite interesting, dear readers, mainly because  if defeated, err convinced, by the union, COA would have no more reason to withhold its concurrence to the increase of the employees’ subsistence allowance.

In other words, this would “unburden” Comm. Jagger from the trouble of finding legal justifications if he is minded in the first place, to grant the request of his subordinates.

And along this line, kudos to Pres. Rommel and the BOCEA for “reminding” our state auditors that, yes, Juan, under other laws such as CSC-DBM Joint Circular No. 1, series of 2015, the customs chief is allowed to increase the overtime pay of customs employees.

Contrary too, to the ‘misimpression’ by the COA, the BOCEA pointed out that under EO 201, those at the ESS, CIIS and the XIP can never be classified as “military personnel.”

In other words, it would be wrong for the COA to deny these employees, a ‘hazard pay’ because they are not serving in a “combat” or “war” zone.

And maybe, the COA may also need to look into the fact that to be assigned at the XIP is to also to encounter the same level of risk in a combat zone. I mean the risk of death from cancer due to prolonged exposure to radiation is very real.

Eh, “ilan” na ba ang nagka-kanser sa mga empleyado ng BoC na na-assign sa XIP, madam Miran? You may be interested in finding out this “minute detail” and decide for yourself if this situation is not on the same level of “physical threat” as in a war zone?

At any rate, more than two months had passed since the issue has been brought to the attention of Comm. Jagger and it is good to note that BOCEA is not letting go of this issue.

Carry on, boys, hehehe!