By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Salary increase and better working conditions are the resounding battle cry of teachers groups as President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT)-Philippines and the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), in separate statements, once again urged the Duterte government to “invest” more on education by ensuring that the welfare of both teachers and learners are prioritized.
ACT National Chairperson Benjamin Valbuena said that thousands of educators joined the “United People’s SONA” to call on Duterte’s administration will “address the legitimate and just demands of the teachers, students and the Filipino people in general.”
Meanwhile, TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas expressed hope that as the president delivers his SONA and present his accomplishments, he should not forget his promises. “We would like to reiterate the public school teachers’ call for augmentation of our salaries, better compensation package, benefits and incentives for us as well as protection and welfare for our teachers, at present and in in the future,” he said.
Even before Duterte delivered his third SONA, ACT has already given the President “failing grades” in his “report card” – particularly on “performance and conduct.”
“Over-all, President Duterte got a failing mark on all subject and learning areas,” said ACT-Philippines Secretary-General Raymond Basilio. However, he still has eight months to go before the end of the school year,” he added.
Basilio noted that the President “may only recover and may get a passing mark” if he implements substantial salary increase for teachers and employees and end contractualization of labor, repeal regressive provisions of the TRAIN Law, stop his planned Charter Change, end the implementation of Martial Law in Mindanao and stop extra-judicial killings. “Otherwise, he will be kicked-out and he better go home to China,” he noted, referring to Duterte’s “friendliness” to China.
Teachers belonging to ACT joined other groups and trooped to the Batasan Pambansa to press for their demands for substantial salary increase during Duterte’s SONA.
Teachers from Region III, for instance, joined their other counterparts to reiterate the group’s demand. Romly Clemente, the regional union president, said their delegation joined thousands of ACT protesters from the National Capital Region and Southern Tagalog to express their “collective disappointment” to Duterte’s “repeated failure to fulfill his promised salary increase to the teachers.”
“We have filed our respective leaves of absence invoking our constitutional right to petition the government for redress of grievances in order to show to President Duterte that we are united behind our demand,” Clemente said, adding that they expect the President to make a definitive pronouncement on this during his SONA. “We cannot wait any further because our meager salary have already been eaten up by price hikes of prime commodities and jeepney fares owing to the imposition of onerous taxes under the TRAIN Law.”
Clemente also lamented that even the Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones has also “exhibited callousness and indifference to their plight.” Aside from low pay, she noted that “teachers are saddled with heavy non-teaching workloads that interfere with their teaching duty such as the accomplishment and submission of various school forms, reports and other paperwork which they find to cumbersome for them to accomplish and adversely affect their health and well-being.”
“We call on the DepEd to unburden us of these additional non-teaching workloads in order to allow us to focus more on actual teaching and to further studies and research to enrich the content of what we teach,” Clemente said.
After two years, TDC observed “that the government is losing its war against illegal drugs, criminality and corruption.”
Basas, who is also a public school teacher in Caloocan City, noted that the “trend may continue, unless it shifts to a better course of battle – thru education.” He added that crimes, drug problem and even corruption “may be reduced or even eliminated if the people are well-educated and employed and social services are accessible.”
The “Tunay na Pagbabago” slogan, Basas added, “will only be achieved if the government would invest in education at the very least and ensure social justice, at most.” TDC reiterated their demand for the enactment of the P10, 000 increase in salaries of teachers; to fully implement of Magna Carta for Public School Teachers (RA 4670) by providing the necessary fundng for this vintage law; reform the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and employ policies that “would provide benefits for teachers and government employees and truly secure our retirement” and “apportion budget in education sector based on the needs of the field.”
“These are not sectoral demand, but rather a proposal that would benefit the nation, especially our most important resources- our people,” Basas ended.