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Teachers stage ‘empty breakfast’ protest

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By Merlina Hernando Malipot

To urge President Rodrigo Duterte to fulfill his promise to increase the salary of public school educators, members of a federation of teachers on Tuesday staged “empty breakfast” protest action.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) marked the day with an “Almusalang Guro at Mendiola” to demonstrate the “dire condition of teachers and urge the President to fulfill his promise.” The eve of Labor Day, the group said, also “happens to be the end of the deadline” Duterte himself set to fulfill his January promise of doubling teachers’ salaries in ‘two to three months.’

During the protest action, teachers ate out from plates of cooked rice partnered with nothing but photos of viands to illustrate their incapacity to afford basic needs due to lacking salaries. “Our breakfast is as empty as the President’s promise,” said ACT Philippines Chairperson Joselyn Martinez. “It looks very appealing but it lacks substance,” she added.

Martinez noted that Duterte has “vowed five times to substantially increase teachers’ salaries since his presidency campaign but still has not done so half way through his term.” She further hit the President for “failing to initiate any concrete effort to effect the promised pay hike.”

In fact, Martinez noted that the President “only effectively lowered the value of teachers’ salaries through the implementation of the inflationary TRAIN Law.” ACT also cited the study of Ibon Foundation which showed that teachers’ 2015 salary was “higher by at least Php267 than the real value of their 2018 pay.”

“Naturally, the paltry 4 tranches of salary adjustment from PNoy’s EO 201 failed to temper the severe implications of record surge in prices of basic goods and commodities under Duterte,” Martinez said. “So much that we can no longer afford even the most basic of our needs,” she added.

ACT also asserted that as “this is the last of the salary adjustments in effect, it is imperative that the President immediately grant teachers a meaningful pay raise.” The group has been calling for a minimum pay of Php30,000 for public school teachers.

“Much like these cutout photos of meals, drawings of pay hike cannot fill our families’ empty stomachs,” Martinez said. “We’ve had enough of your empty promises, President Duterte…it’s time to take action,” she added.

Meanwhile, the ACT continued to call on Duterte to “make good on his word and honor teachers through decent compensation.” The teachers’ federation will also join other laborers from public and private sector on May 1 as they take to the streets their united call for substantial increase in wages and salaries.

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