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ACT lambasts government anew as Congress deliberates DepEd budget

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By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

A federation of teachers lambasted the government anew for its recent pronouncements which reflect “lack of sincerity” to the real plight of public school teachers.

Joselyn Martinez, chairperson of ACT Philippines (ACT / MANILA BULLETIN)

Joselyn Martinez, chairperson of ACT Philippines
(ACT / MANILA BULLETIN)

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines expressed disappointment on the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) noting that their recent statements “expose insincerity” in the latest “vague pay hike promise” of President Rodrigo Duterte.

For the group, the government’s “apparent insincerity in granting teachers with substantial salary increase is revealed by the recent statements of the budget and education agency.” Earlier, Duterte issued an “unclear” announcement of “35..or more” pertaining to the planned pay hike for teachers. Soon after, the DBM – in a recent Senate meeting –declared that they recommend for only up to 21 percent salary increase to be given in three tranches.

“This government is taking teachers for a ride,” said ACT Philippines’ National Chairperson Joselyn Martinez. “After three years of guessing game with repeatedly vague promises, it was finally revealed that they only intend to give us so little,” she added.

Given this, Martinez vowed that the teachers will continue to intensify their call for higher pay hike. “We will not take crumbs for a pay hike… this is not our work’s worth,” she added. Based on its own computations, ACT noted that a 21% increase in Teacher I salaries would only yield a P25,112 monthly salary by 2022 – which is a “far cry” from their demand of setting the entry-level salary of teachers at P30,000. “If divided in three tranches, the DBM proposed pay hike would only amount to no more than P1,500 increase in the monthly salaries of Teacher I every year for three years,” she explained.

Martinez also compared the P1,500 monthly increase to not having pay hike at all. “It will do nothing to improve the dire conditions of our teachers as it will be quickly negated by income tax and inflation,” she added.

Insensitive

Meanwhile, ACT also slammed DepEd – particularly Education Secretary Leonor Briones – for her “insensitive” statement on pay salary and teachers’ performance. During the 2019 World Teachers Day (WTD) celebration, the DepEd Chief reminded teachers that “kung mayroong asenso, may responsibilidad” (if there’s growth, there are also responsibilities).

For the group, Briones’ message “spoke of how the Duterte government really views hiking teachers’ salaries” – noting that with the looming salary increase, teachers are also expected to raise the quality of education.

“Hindi pa nga natatanggap at binabarat pa nga, naniningil na kaagad ng kapalit ang gobyerno. This only goes to show that the current government has no real empathy to the plight of our teachers. It seems that they view pay hike as a favor they will give which the teachers do not deserve,” Martinez expressed.

Martinez said that it is “unfair” for the government to demand teachers of quality education when its planned salary increase would not even afford teachers of quality life. She explained that the low quality of education in the country is a product of many factors – mainly by the wanting government budget allocation which causes big backlogs in classrooms, textbooks, teachers, education support staff, and teaching equipment and materials.

“How convenient [is it] for the government to pass on the blame and responsibility of quality education to teachers?” Martinez asked. “Despite low pay, teachers have always been giving it their all to make education happen,” she added.

Martinez also noted that “substantially increasing teachers’ salaries would only rectify the government’s long time neglect of our welfare” while “raising the quality education falls primarily, still, under the government’s responsibility.”

Instead of “blaming” the teachers for the low quality of education in the country, Martinez challenged the government to reverse the looming budget cuts to education to fill in the “age-old shortages” in the basic education inputs.

Martinez noted that recent government statements only “fueled the teachers’ disappointment and restlessness over the pay hike issue” – due to this the “government can expect heightened protests from teachers in the next days and months.”

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