“This unfortunate incident will serve as an inspiration for us teachers to intensify our campaign for decent and living wages.” – France Castro, ACT secretary general
BY ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – A harsh reality.
“The killing of teachers who failed to pay their debt adds weight to our long time demand for salary increase,” France Castro, secretary general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said after four teachers were shot dead by a policeman at the Pangasinan National High School (PNHS) on Monday, Sept. 1.
Castro said their group condoles with the families and joins calls for justice for the killed teachers. She said it is a sad reality that because of the meager salary given to teachers, they are now burdened by multi-loans just to make both ends meet.
The teachers – identified as Acidello Sison and Linda Sison, both from the PNHS, Florenda Flores, from Labrador National High School and loan collector Jonalito Urayan – were killed by Police Officer 3 Domino Alipio, who went on a shooting spree after he failed to collect loan payments. Alipio was arrested after the incident.
According to a news report, PNHS Principal Florante Tamondong said the teachers who have loans to Alipio were receiving death threats weeks prior to the shooting. Linda Sison, according to Tamondong, owed Alipino up to more than P200,000 ($4,586.55).
At least 39 teachers and employees from PNHS have loans to policeman Alipio who is engaged in money lending.
The teachers and the loan collector were killed inside the PNHS premises. Four other teachers were also reportedly wounded.
‘Borrowing money to survive’
Castro said borrowing money from different lending institutions has been a way of life for the majority of public school teachers.
“As a matter of fact, teachers pawn their ATM cards to secure loans because their basic pay cannot meet their family’s needs. The exorbitant interest fees on those loans compound their problems.”
An entry level teacher is currently receiving P18,495 ($424) per month while a non-teaching personnel is receiving P9,000 ($206) per month. “Our meager wages also pays for the materials we need for our teaching,” Castro said.
“Prices of basic commodities and services like education and health went up tremendously over the past years, but our demand for salary increase fell on deaf ears. The situation is aggravated by President Benigno S. Aquino III’s removal of some of our benefits like the Performance Enhancement Incentive and Performance Incentive Bonus,” she added.
ACT has been pushing for the salary increase of teachers and non-teaching personnel. The teachers group has conducted several campaigns and protest actions demanding salary increase from the Aquino government, but Castro said their calls were unheeded.
“This incident is very saddening. But what is more saddening is that the Aquino government remains blind and deaf to the reality and correctness of our call for salary increase,” Castro said.
Castro said they joined other sectors that filed an impeachment complaint against Aquino for his illegal use of public funds that should be spent for social services like education and health as well as for the salary increases. The three impeachment complaints against the president were all junked by the House Committee on Justice this week.
“This unfortunate incident will serve as an inspiration for us teachers to intensify our campaign for decent and living wages,” Castro said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education (DepEd) also extends their condolences to the families of the victims. In a statement, the DepEd said, “We maintain that schools are zones of peace where the safety and well-being of students, teachers, and personnel are of utmost importance.”
The DepEd committed to “foster a sense of normalcy by providing the necessary psychological interventions to the community of PNHS. We enjoin local authorities to persevere in ensuring that justice prevails.”