“The State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education and ensure that teaching will attract and retain its rightful share of the best available talents through adequate remuneration.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The occasional rains on Oct. 5, World Teachers’ Day did not stop teachers from public schools to march from Morayta in Manila to Chino Roces bridge (former Mendiola bridge). They carried banners bearing their call for salary increase and justice for the slain Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and livelihood Development (Alcadev) executive director, Emerito Samarca.
Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) secretary general, France Castro said there is no reason to celebrate World Teachers’ Day with grandeur. She said aside from the old problems of education system that has not been addressed, teachers’ demand for salary increase is still not heeded.
They protested the proposed 20 percent salary adjustment for teachers and government employees. Castro said this is contrary to the P25,000 ($534) for teachers and P16,000 ($341) for government employees.
The teachers also asserted that even the Constitution provides that they should be justly compensated. They cited Article 14, Section 5.5, of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which says: “The State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education and ensure that teaching will attract and retain its rightful share of the best available talents through adequate remuneration and other means of job satisfaction and fulfilment.”
20 percent increase is alms
Benjamin Valbnuena, ACT president said the government’s announcement of a 20 percent salary increase “is like giving alms to government employees.” He said the 20 percent increase will be given in four tranches, with only five percent of the current P18,549 ($396), or an increase of about P900 ($19), per year.
“Minus the withholding tax, the Government Service Insurance System premium and other contributions, how much will be left to an entry level teacher?” said Valbuena in a program in Mendiola.
The group asserted that with their current salaries public school teachers are unable to “ensure a reasonable standard of life for themselves and their families.” Castro said teachers resort to borrowing money from loan sharks to cope.
“This is not an increase, but a testament to the total disregard of President Aquino to our poor plight. We are asking for a substantial increase, and not alms. With the sacrifice and service we are doing for the Filipino people, our demand is just and legitimate,” said Castro.
She also added that the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers also stipulated that “teachers pay should be able to provide them and their families a decent standard of living.”
Justice for Emerito Samarca
Rico Pareja, a teacher from Alcadev spoke in the program, saying teachers and Lumad communities are saddened that their school became target of attacks, prompting the stoppage of their classes. He said education is their only arms against those who encroach into their ancestral land.
“Instead of recognizing the school, the government hinders the Lumad’s right to education by wrongfully accusing us as schools for the New People’s Army. Is this the righteous path?” said Pareja. He said students were traumatized with the killing of Samarca, Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo. The future of their students and other Lumad who aspire for education has been put in peril.
Arnold Adraneda, a teacher in Pasig, said the government has been inutile in protecting the rights of educators, such as Samarca, who have dedicated themselves to giving service to the underprivileged, such as the Lumad in Mindanao.
“President Aquino has never protected teachers from being harmed. The teachers killed in Pangasinan due to loans is proof that teachers are neglected under this administration,” said Adraneda.
Castro also said the Lumad have been denied the most basic social services like education for decades already and this heinous crime is designed to further deny them their right for education and other social services.
“Aquino and Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro are equally liable on this after the latter issued DepEd Memorandum No. 221 which allowed the entry and use of soldiers of schools for their military activities and operations. Their hands are tainted with blood like the soldiers and the Magahat-Bagani,” Castro pointed out.
Norma Dollaga of the Pilgrims for Peace, meanwhile, commended teachers who go beyond the four corners of their classrooms, but also march in the streets to defend their rights and call for justice for a fellow teacher.
Dollaga said they have been calling for the resumption of the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to address the root cause of armed conflict. However, the Philippine government remained closed to peace negotiations.
“While our fellow educators and Filipinos in Mindanao are being brutally killed, Aquino is even squeezing us to death in the form of low salary and benefits, higher taxes and skyrocketing increases in the prices of basic commodities and services. Clearly, his ‘tuwid na daan’ is nothing but an empty rhetoric aimed at making the lives of the common Filipinos miserable,” Castro said.