“We only ask for what is just and humane for us.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — Public school teachers and nurses lambasted Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno who ruled out giving them wage increases and dismissing them as “too ambitious.”
Outraged public school teachers under the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) stormed the central office of Department of Budget and Management on Aug. 25 to reiterate their call for wage hikes: P25,000 ($538) for teachers and P16,000 ($344) for non-teaching personnel.
In a report, Diokno said, during the presentation of the P3.35 trillion ($72 billion) 2017 national budget at the House Committee on Appropriations, that there will be no pay increase for government nurses and teachers as they already get higher wages than their counterparts in the private sector.
“To increase it further…e todo ambisyon naman `yun (that is too ambitious),” Diokno said.
In reaction, Benjamin Valbuena, ACT national chairman, said they felt insulted and disappointed with Diokno’s remarks. They said Diokno is clueless about the economic situation of ordinary government employees.
“Another round of salary increase could be ambitious only for high-ranking government officials as they now enjoy high pay coupled with numerous benefits,” he said.
Valbuena said thousands of rank-and-file teachers and government employees “continue to suffer from the low pay level and minimal salary adjustment and deceptive reward system.”
The Filipino Nurses United said, “We were aghast to hear such unfounded and even callous remark from the Secretary who should have had a more acute grasp of the miserable plight of majority of our nurses.”
Eleanor Nolasco, president of FNU said nurses receive a starting salary of P18,000 ($387) a month while those in the private sector receive between P9,000 to P12,000 ($193 to $258) a month. Nolasco said this is “clearly way below” the P30,000 ($645) monthly basic cost of living for a family of five.
Nolasco asserted that the Nursing Law of 2002 mandates a P25,000 salary for entry-level nurses in government. However, government has not implemented and honored the law for the past 14 years, and in effect, has betrayed its commitment to the nurses.
Nolasco clarified that they have nothing against police and military personnel who will receive additional salaries. However, they pointed out that nurses also deserve equal treatment in recognition of their critical role in the health care of the country’s human resources.
“We have long wallowed in unjust and dehumanizing work conditions that many have been pushed to seek work overseas with grave implications on family relations and even the quality of care received by our fellow Filipinos as the more experienced and skilled nurses become priority export commodity,” Nolasco said.
“We work beyond the working hours. We provide beyond what is required from us. We only ask for what is just and humane for us. Pegging the entry pay of teachers to P25,000 per month is not ambitious. It is just and reasonable,” Valbuena said.
Still, the FNU expressed their optimism that President Rodrigo Duterte will remain true to his campaign promise of “change.”