However, in 1990 and 1991, the teachers’ movement was put to a test. The hunger strike of teachers in 1990 led to the suspension of more than 3,000 teachers by the secretary of the Department Education, Culture, and Sports (Decs now DepEd). Classes in public schools were paralyzed in Metro Manila.
A hunger strike was held by the teachers who were suspended, but only a few joined them and even fewer teachers joined the second round of hunger strike in 1992. After 143 days, the teachers ended the hunger strike and gained nothing.
“After the 3,000 teachers were dismissed, the teachers’ movement sunk to its lowest. There were many questions; no one was able to explain what happened, what went wrong, and what the significance of our action was,” Valbuena, who was one of the dismissed teachers in 1991, said.
He added that although many teachers were eventually reinstated, the teachers’ movement lost its momentum.
“But we take this as a lesson and the important thing is that the organization was able to recover and learned from its mistakes,” Valbuena said. Almost a hundred thousand teachers are now members of the only progressive teachers’ group in the Philippines.
In the last three decades, ACT has also gained victories in their struggle.
The most recent victory is the accreditation of the ACT-National Capital Region Union by the Civil Service Commission (CSC). On Sept. 17, 2012, the ACT-NCR Union was declared by the CSC as the sole and exclusive negotiating agent of all public school teachers under the Department of Education-NCR.
“As more than 26,000 teachers signed and supported ACT’s petition, its successful accreditation is a triumph for all of us,” said ACT Teachers Party-list and former ACT chairman Antonio Tinio.
Another victory was achieved last Sept. 11 when teachers witnessed the signing of the memorandum of agreement between the DepEd, the Government Service and Insurance System (GSIS) and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) at the Malacañang Palace. The said MOA will restore the benefits of nearly 800,000 active and inactive employees of DepEd since July 1997.
The records in the GSIS are being updated, the supervisorship pension, which was earlier scrapped by former GSIS general manager Winston Garcia through a board resolution, was restored, and the application of the onerous CLIP or Claims and Loan Interdependency Program was removed from the retirement benefit of its members. The amount of P2.5 billion ($$59.5 million) was allocated under the General Appropriations Act of 2012 to settle unpaid GSIS dues for public school teachers. The CLIP, which was instituted under former GSIS general manager Winston Garcia, authorized the automatic deduction of unpaid GSIS dues from the loans and benefits of teachers, even if the unpaid dues were the fault of the government agency concerned, either because of the non-remittance by the DepEd or the errors in the records of the GSIS.
The local chapters of ACT have also gained small victories. Araceli De Ocampo, president of Manila Kindergarten Teachers Association (Makita) said Kindergarten teachers in Manila are now nationalized or were given plantilla positions in the DepEd.
“Through the help of ACT we were able to win our long time struggle to nationalize Kindergarten teachers. From being locally-hired, we are now included in the DepEd roster. This small victory is an example of the products of our collective action.”
Because of the rushed implementation of the compulsory kindergarten program of the DepEd, kindergarten teachers were hired as contractuals, with lower salaries and no benefits, by local governments instead of the DepEd. Now that Kindergarten teachers are nationalized, they will now receive chalk allowance, step increment, and additional cash gifts, among others.
“We thank Congressman Tinio, Mr. Valbuena and Ms. Castro, Mr. Louie Zabala of ACT-NCR for always supporting and backing us in our struggle,” De Ocampo said, adding that she hopes that their initial victory will serve as an inspiration to other teachers.
ACT was also able to pressure the government to increase the education budget for 2013, from P230 billion to P290 billion ($5.47 billion to $6.9 billion). However, Valbuena stressed that the increase is not enough to cover the shortages in the education sector.
Most of all, the teachers were able to have their representative in Congress. In 2010, ACT Teacher’s Party-list garnered 370,000 votes to earn one seat in Congress. “This is an additional venue to air our concerns,” Valbuena said.
ACT gave tribute to teachers who have contributed not only to the advancement of the rights and welfare of teachers but also to the struggle of the Filipino people for national and social liberation.
Among those honored were the founders of ACT such as Benjamin Valbuena, current teacher at F.G. Calderon High School and president of Manila Public School Teachers (MPTSA); Fabian Hallig, former president of Gregorio Araneta Employees Union who led the first strike of teachers and employees in 1982, and is the current regional coordinator and secretary-general of ACT Central Luzon; former ACT president Raul Segovia and his wife, Lorna Segovia; Ramon De Vera, ACT founding member and former Associate Professor and Dean of Student Affairs in GAUF; and lawyer Greg Fabros.
It also honored teachers who continue to advance teachers’ rights and welfare, as well as the interests of the Filipino people. ACT recognized the efforts of Gloria C. Arcenas, elementary teacher at the Magallanes Elementary School and former vice president of Kamkem in Davao city; Abundancio Bulac, teacher at the Davao City National High School, former president of the Davao City Public Elementary School Teachers Association, and has been included in the military’s order of battle because of his activism; former UP Faculty Regent and chairwoman of ACT Women’s Committee Judy Taguiwalo; Dr. Edberto Villegas, a long-time professor of political economy and social studies in UP and a staunch anti-imperialist who served as ACT’s secretary general from 1995 to 2000; Rolando Bajo, professor at the University of Southeastern Philippines; National artist for literature Bienvenido Lumbera, who was ACT chairperson in 1995 and the current chairman of ACT Teachers Party-list; Elmer Ordoñez, a professor of English, associate for Literary Criticism, UP Creative Writing Center and chairperson for projects of the National Center for Culture and the Arts; Rogelio Ordoñez, a known writer and journalist who received the Gawad Hen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s Natatanging Parangal sa Rebolusyonaryong Caviteño in the field of Literature; Charity Dino, a political prisoner who is languishing at the Batangas Provincial Jail since 2009, a teacher by profession who later became a peasant organizer; and Professor Jose Maria Sison. In accepting the recognition, Professor Sison said, “I am proud to be a teacher and I am always concerned with upholding, defending and promoting the rights of teachers and other personnel in the education sector. I have functioned best as a teacher in the classroom as well as outside of it in the Philippines and abroad.”
ACT gave the highest tribute to teachers who gave their lives to the struggle for the betterment of the conditions of teachers and the Filipino people.
Leima Fortu, a teacher and acting secretary general of Karapatan in Mindoro Oriental who, together with human rights lawyer Juvy Magsino, was killed by suspected soldiers on Feb. 13, 2004; Professor Jose Maria Cui, a professor of History and Communication Arts at the University of Eastern Philippines and a former chairman and secretary general of Katungod-Eastern Visayas, who was killed by state security forces while teaching a class on Jan. 19, 2007; Victoria Samonte, an ACT national council member and a teacher at Andres Soriano College in Bislig Surigao Del Sur who was killed by an unidentified man on Sept. 30, 2005; Napoleon Pornasdoro, also an ACT National Council member and the secretary-general of the Southern Tagalog Teachers for Development, who was murdered by unknown gunmen on Feb. 27, 2006 near the Quezon National High School where he taught in Lucena City, Quezon province; Rodriga Apolinar a teacher at San Teodoro Central School who was killed on May 20, 2002; Joan Lingkuran, a volunteer teacher in Sitio Nabunturan, killed last Feb. 18, 2006; Rodrigo Catayong, a professor at the Eastern Samar State University and chairperson of Katungod Eastern Samar, killed Nov. 5, 2006.
ACT also gave tribute to those who died of illnesses but nevertheless offered their whole lives to the advancement of the rights, interests and welfare of teachers and the Filipino people.
Bayani Abadilla a professor of literature and journalism at PUP; Monico Atienza, professor at the Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature in UP; Nicanor Gonzales, Jr. teacher at the Tamayong Elementary school and organizer of Kamkem-ACT Davao from 1989 to 2005; Luzviminda Galang, teacher at the Lakandula High School who was elected president of the Manila Public School Teachers Association twice; Jocelyn Bisuna, a college instructor at the La Consolacion College in Iriga City, an organizer of Bicol Concerned Teachers Alliance, and the third nominee of ACT Teachers’ Party-list during the 2010 elections.
The teachers committed to continue the struggle for the interests, rights, and welfare of teachers, in particular, and the Filipino people, in general. They vowed to intensify their campaign for salary upgrading. “As far as the teachers are concerned, President Aquino has done nothing for us. Despite many versions of the same House Bill (2142) filed by Congressman Tinio, President Aquino, instead of heeding the long time demand of teachers by certifying Tinio’s bill as urgent, issued an Executive Order that does not even address our needs,” Valbuena told Bulatlat.com. Valbuena was referring to EO 80 or the Performance-based Incentcive System for Government Employees that was issued by Aquino last July.
“Let us continue to oppose contractualization and fight for the regularization of teachers and non-teaching personnel to include volunteers, temporary, provisional, casual, job-order, part-timer teachers and employees, among others,” said France Castro, secretary general of ACT. Teachers also vowed to continue fighting for a bigger education budget and to oppose and expose the K to 12 program of the government.
Teachers also took on the big challenge of organizing other ACT unions in the country and having it accredited by the Civil Service Commission (CSC), Valbuena said.
Meanwhile, the ACT-NCR union would negotiate with the DepEd NCR management to forge a Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA). Among their demands are reducing teaching hours and teaching loads, increasing the number of leaves, making promotion of teachers more accessible, and for non-monetary benefits, among others. The ACT-NCR Union would also demand for a P35,000 ($853) CNA incentive for each and every teacher in NCR. “Let ACT-NCR Union’s struggles and victories serve as an inspiration and example for public school teachers in other regions nationwide!” Tinio said.