“We are aghast with Aquino’s statement that there is no budget to cover the salary increase knowing that a lot of government money was just used for ghost, anomalous and corrupt projects through the Priority Development Assistance Fund, Presidential Social Fund and other lump sum allocations.” – Alliance of Concerned Teachers
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Public school teachers trooped to Gate 7 of Malacañang palace, May 9 and condemned President Benigno S. Aquino III’s pronouncement that there will be no salary increase for government workers due to lack of budget.
“We are aghast with Aquino’s statement that there is no budget to cover the salary increase knowing that a lot of government money was just used for ghost, anomalous and corrupt projects through the Priority Development Assistance Fund, Presidential Social Fund and other lump sum allocations,” Vladimir Quetua, deputy-secretary general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said.
Aquino said the government has just finished implementing the Salary Standardization Law III that mandated regular increase in the salaries of state workers.
Louie Zabala, president of the Manila Public School Teachers said the SSL III was during the time of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and there has been no salary increase for government workers under the Aquino administration. He added that the SSL III is a result of their collective action. “No salary increase was given to us voluntarily by the government. We fought for it not only in the halls of Congress but also in the streets.”
Zabala cited Article XIV, Section 5 of the Philippine Constitution, which states that the government must allot the highest budgetary allocation to education and that salaries for teachers must give “satisfaction and fulfillment” to them. He added that the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers mandates that teachers’ salaries must be able to provide for a reasonable standard of life for themselves and their families.
“The current pay scheme of the government fails to fulfill these criteria. Salaries of public school teachers do not compare favorably with other occupations in government. A duly licensed professional teacher earns P18,549 a month, substantially less than a high school graduate who enters the Philippine Military Academy as a cadet who has a monthly salary of P21,709 ($497.57)per month,” Zabala said.
According to the group, the salaries of public school teachers are currently unable to “ensure a reasonable standard of life for themselves and their families.” Citing data from IBON Foundation, the Family Living Wage (FLW) in the National Capital Region is estimated at P1, 054 ($24.16) per day or more than P31, 620 ($724.73) per month, which means that many teachers resort to borrowing from government financial institutions such as the Government Service Insurance System, private lending institutions, or loan sharks in order to cope with this “living salary gap.”
Queta called for the immediate passage of House Bill 245 proposed by ACT Teachers Party-list, which aims to raise the entry level pay of public school teachers to P25,000 ($573) from $425.14 per and of the non-teaching staff from P9,000 ($206.28) to P15,000 ($343.80) per month.
Policemen assigned at Gate 7 did not disperse the lighting rally of teachers but the teachers were told to hold their program at the Chino Roces Bridge. Apologetic policemen said that their salaries too have not been increasing. “That is why instead of prohibiting us from airing our grievances, join us instead,” one teacher told the policemen who were pushing them toward the Mendiola Peace Arch.
Zabala warned that teachers will go on mass leave on the first day of classes on June 2 if the Aquino government continues to remain deaf to the urgent call of teachers for a salary increase. “This is not only to reiterate our demand for a salary increase but also to show that teachers are tired of Aquino’s inaction on our demand for a salary increase and greater subsidy for the education sector.”
Zabala said teachers had already conducted a mass leave in 2005. In Manila area for one, he said,the mass leave was participated in by 4,300 out of 10,000 teachers in 46 out of 103 schools.