By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
“Give assistance to living teachers, not to the dead ones.”
While appreciative of the proposal that would give educators a funeral discount, a group of teachers on Saturday urged the government to provide them incentives and other benefits while they are “still alive.”
Teachers Dignity Coalition (TDC) said that its members appreciate the attention from Senator Nancy Binay who earlier filed a bill seeking a 20 percent discount on funeral services for families of public school teachers of the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) “who died on account of work-related sickness and injuries.”
However, TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas that teachers “would be more grateful if the government will provide them with free medical check-up and other forms of medical assistance while still alive, not just a discount for their funeral.”
TDC said that they recognize the effort of Binay since the Senate Bill No. 1670 seeks to assist the teachers or their families in time of mourning and huge expenses. “However, we would be more appreciative if the good senator and Congress will use their oversight power to implement the provisions of Magna Carta for teachers, one of which is the mandate that teachers should be provided with annual health examination as well as hospitalization if necessary and that is for free,” Basas added.
Basas said that under Magna Carta for Public School Teachers (RA 4670), a law which was enacted in 1966, the government is responsible to maintain teachers’ sound health through a compulsory, annual and free medical examination and medication or hospitalization if found necessary.
“Teachers need assistance, particularly if they have to undergo chemotherapy, hemodialysis or major operations due to heart or lung conditions or complications due to pregnancy,” Basas said. “In these cases, we really need a government that cares for us, while we are still alive,” he added.
Teachers ‘begging’ for help
TDC cited several cases where teachers have practically “begged for help” in order to survive their illness.
Basas said that many of them were able to recover, some “were not that lucky and never made it alive.” Such is the case of a teacher in Caloocan City who died in a private hospital two years ago. “Because the family lacked money to settle the bills, her body was made hostage for several weeks,” he said.
TDC also noted the case of another teacher from Malabon who gave birth to her first baby in a lying-in clinic and had continuous bleeding, then was rushed to a private hospital where she suffered a state of comatose for more than a week. “The family, whose income depends mainly on her, solicited funds from politicians and guarantee letters from PCSO to pay for the bills,” Basas said. “The poor teacher died a few days before Christmas of 2016,” he added.
Basas said his group has been closely coordinating with the DepEd management to ensure that by the end of this school year in March, “teachers will not need to pay for their annual check-up.” He also urged Education Secretary Leonor Briones to consider TDC’s proposal which will make assistance coming from DepEd more accessible and timely through a support mechanism.
Last year, TDC asked DepEd to establish a support mechanism through a mutual aid and benefit system that would be readily available to all teachers in need, on top of the immediate implementation of Section 22 of the Magna Carta.