Government service is the employment of last resort.
When the private sector can’t or won’t absorb those endlessly joining the fast-growing labor pool, job opportunities in the public sector are opened to absorb them.
Emergency or short-term employment in standard public works projects or massive undertakings like the Build, Build, Build program of the Duterte administration come to mind.
But are all positions in government already filled, and no agency is understaffed to preclude prospective jobseekers from landing any vacancy?
We know government service to be an endless process of job turnover – that is people resign, get promoted, transferred, or retired all the time.
And the resulting vacancies need to be filled because they are funded by the national budget – that is, the payroll has already been factored in whether the positions are filled or not.
No wonder Sen. Joel Villanueva took issue with the government’s unfilled plantilla positions, pointing out that urgent need to fill vacant roles given the he need to generate jobs amid the record-high unemployment caused by the ongoing pandemic and the recent natural calamities.
Villanueva said that nearly 180,000 jobs in authorized plantilla positions in government remains unfilled, while it has allowed nearly 670,000 workers to be under the job order system.
He lamented that even some job order workers continue to work under the arrangement for years.
“Government should always be part of the solution, not the problem. People need jobs, and we have nearly 180,000 available jobs in our own backyard. Para na rin po tayong nagbubulok ng bigas sa bodega imbis na agad ipamahagi,” Villanueva said.
“For the past years, roughly 1 out of 10 authorized positions in the government is unfilled. For 2021, of the 1.8 million plantilla positions in government, some 178,009 authorized positions are unfilled. I raised this during the Commission on Appointments confirmation of the secretary of the DBM and was told that he will work on it. But if you look at the figures, wala pong nagbago,”the lawmaker said during the plenary deliberations of the proposed national budget for 2021 in the Senate.
“I think all of us will not be happy looking at this and I am looking for action from our respective departments, particularly our economic managers. Sayang po ang pondo kung taun-taon din namang bakante ang mga positions na ito, gamitin na lang natin para sa Covid-19 pandemic response at typhoon victims,” he added.
Villanueva, who chairs the Senate committee on labor, noted the “staggering number of vacancies” in the Department of Public Works and Highways despite the high demand of construction and public works in the government’s BBB flagship program.
At present, the DPWH has only filled 17,739 positions out of its 22,479 authorized regular positions.
The lawmaker also raised the 4,588 job order personnel hired by the Department of Agriculture, even when it has 3,511 vacancies. The agency also employs 1,206 through contract of service.
Moreover, the 2021 National Expenditure Program also showed 43,780 vacancies in the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Education and 14,553 vacant positions in the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Health.
Villanueva filed SBN 709 which seeks to provide permanent appointment to all casual and contractual employees of the government who rendered the prescribed number of years of service.
Under the bill, all incumbent casual and contractual government employees who have rendered at least five years of exemplary and continuous service in the national government and six years of service in the case of local government units, “shall be entitled to permanent appointment, subject to the requirements of the Constitution, relevant civil service laws and the Merit Selection Plan of the concerned agency”.
The bill, which is on first reading, has been referred to the Senate civil service committee.