October 9, 2019

The Supreme Court, during its En Banc session on 08 October 2019 and in a decision penned by Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio, ruled in favor of nurses working in government health institutions.

In the case of Ang Nars Party List, represented by Cong. Leah Primitiva G. Samaco-Paquiz, et al., Petitioners, vs. The Executive Secretary, et al., Respondents, G.R. No. 215746, the Court declared as valid Section 32 of the Philippine Nursing Act. However, the Court did not grant the prayer of the petitioners to compel the implementation of Sec. 32 of RA 9173 since its implementation would necessarily require a law passed by Congress providing the necessary funds for it.

The petition for certiorari filed under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, assailed the validity of Executive Order No. 811 (EO 811) and asked that the respondents implement Section 32 of Republic Act No. 9173 (RA 9173), otherwise known as the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002.

R.A. 9173 was approved into law by Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 21 October 2002, and Section 32 thereof provides:

SEC. 32. Salary. – In order to enhance the general welfare, commitment to service and professionalism of nurses, the minimum base pay of nurses working in public health institutions shall not be lower than salary grade 15 prescribed under Republic Act No. 6758, otherwise known as the “Compensation and Classification Act of 1989:” Provided, that for nurses working in local government units, adjustments to their salaries shall be in accordance with Section 10 of the said law.  

On 01 June 2009 and 02 June 2009, the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively, adopted Joint Resolution No. 4 which authorized the President “to Modify the Compensation and Position Classification System of Civilian Personnel and the Base Pay Schedule of Military and Uniformed Personnel in the Government, and for Other Purposes.” Thereafter, President Arroyo approved the same Joint Resolution No. 4, Paragraph 16 of which provides:

(16) Amendment of Existing Laws – The provisions of all laws, decrees, executive orders, corporate charters, rules, regulations, circulars, approvals and other issuances inconsistent with the provisions of this Joint Resolution such as but not limited to Republic Act No. 4670, Republic Act No. 7160, Republic Act No. 7305, Republic Act No. 8439, Republic Act No. 8551, Executive Order No. 107 dated June 10, 1999, Republic Act No. 9286, Republic Act No. 9166. Republic Act No. 9173, and Republic Act No. 9433, are hereby amended.

All provisions of laws, executive orders, corporate charters, implementing rules and regulations prescribing salary grades for government officials and employees other than those in Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6758 are hereby repealed.

On 17 June 2009, President Arroyo in implementing Joint Resolution No. 4, issues EO 811, and Section 6 of the said EO 811 mandated that the salary grade (SG) for the position “Nurse I” be increased from SG 10 to SG 11.

The salary grade for nurses under EO 811 is way below the salary grade for nurses under RA 9173, which is SG 15.

Due to this inconsistency, petitioner Cong. Paquiz wrote letters to the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Justice (DOJ), and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and sought clarification why government nurses’ salaries were downgraded to SG 11, when under RA 9173 they are entitled to SG 15. Having received no satisfactory response from the respondent agencies, Cong. Paquiz went to the Supreme Court assailing EO 811. She also asked that nurses be given their salaries equivalent to SG 15 pursuant to Sec. 32 of RA 9173.

In ruling in favor of the petitioners, the Court ruled that Joint Resolution No. 4, being a mere resolution, cannot amend or repeal a prior law such as RA 9173 or the Philippine Nursing Act. The same applies to EO 811 which is also not a law, but an executive directive.

The Public Information Office of the Supreme Court will immediately post a copy of the decision in the SC website once the official copy is made available. ###