“October 5 is supposed to be a celebration for teachers, but we are still overworked and underpaid that is why we are on the streets to remind our government of their obligation to provide a just and humane pay for us and our family.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — The pouring rain did not stop progressive educators under the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) to call on government to address their democratic rights as they commemorated World Teachers Day, on Oct. 5.
At an indoor activity in V. Mapa High School in Manila, teachers showed their support for the ongoing peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. The teachers then took to the streets and headed to Gate 7 of Malacañang then at Chino Roces bridge (former Mendiola bridge) with banners bearing their the same calls for wage hikes and increase in the budget for the education sector.
October 5 is supposed to be a celebration for teachers, “but we are still overworked and underpaid that is why we are on the streets to remind our government of their obligation to provide a just and humane pay for us and our family,” said Benjamin Valbuena, ACT national chairperson.
The group also called for the release of Amelia Pond, a Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTCLCI) teacher and regional officer of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, who is being detained in Davao Del Norte. She was forcibly taken by elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on August 19 in Cebu alleging her to be “Adelfa Toledo” with trumped up charges of murder.
‘More work, not enough pay’
Public school teachers expressed dissatisfaction with the recent salary increases implemented under Executive Order 203 signed by President Duterte’s predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III. The teachers now receive P19,000 ($393) a month from the previous P18,549 ($384). The ACT criticized the EO for its unequal distribution of salary increases, with rank-and-file government employees receiving a meager increase of 22 percent (P2,068 or $42) while government employees in higher positions receiving an increase of 67 percent or P33,656 ($697).
“Kulang na kulang talaga (It’s really not enough),” Aila Oledan, 24, Grade 8 teacher at the Nagpayo High School in Pasig City. She is also a young mother who needs to support her child. “We also buy materials for our teaching. How much will be left for us?” Oledan told Bulatlat in an interview.
According to ACT, the Philippines is considered to be one of the countries in Asia with the lowest pay scheme for teachers.
Even with their meager pay, teachers have more workload with the implementation of the Daily Lesson Log (DLL), the Results-Based Performance Management System (RPMS) and the Learner Information System (LIS).
Raymond Basilio, ACT secretary general said these additional workloads have also become requisites for teachers to get bonuses, ever since President Aquino implemented the performance-based bonus.
ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro said that they have been receiving complaints against the DLL, as teachers are given “additional yet unnecessary hardship” without any equivalent additional compensation.
“Teachers also shell out money for internet connection and printing. Writing lessons take away precious time better spent for developing teaching aids,” Castro said. Under DLL, teachers should produce learners’ material such as activity sheets and modules.
“An increase in salary will always be the best gift for teachers in their special day and it’s not too late for the President to grant it,” Castro reiterated.
The ACT Teachers Party also proposed an amendment in the 2017 budget for an additional P3,500 ($72) to be allotted to the current P1,500 ($31) teaching supplies allowance. ACT Teaches Party Rep. Antonio Tinio said the additional P2.45 billion ($50 million) funds for the said allowance will benefit the 700,000 public school teachers.
Attack on teachers
Teachers also decried the continuing human rights violations committed by the state forces to teachers in the hinterlands of Mindanao.
Ronnie Garcia, executive director of the STTCLCI said Lumad schools in Mindanao are still being targeted by attacks, such as the putting up of military detachments in schools, killing of teachers and filing of trumped-up charges against educators.
The groups also called for the release of another teacher of Lumad school and an agriculturist, Dominiciano “Dioning” Muya.
Garcia was with Pond when she was taken by members of the CIDG while riding a taxi cab in Cebu. He said Pond, 64, has a medical condition and the court has recommended for her to seek medical treatment. Garcia said Pond’s condition in jail worsens her back pain.
He added that Save our Schools Network have recorded 29 human rights violations committed by the state forces from June 30 to September this year.
“Lumad schools are built to strengthen the indigenous people and their community. It is an expression of their struggle for right to self-determination,” said Garcia during the program in Mendiola. They are here in the capital for the upcoming Manilakbayan 2016 dubbed as Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya this month.
“Why do state forces hamper our services to the Lumad children?” said Garcia. He reported harassment from armed men who have been tailing him since April, after suspected state forces went to his house and asked his family members of his whereabouts. But even then, he said they, as educators, would not be intimidated.
“The theme of this year’s (government’s commemoration) is ‘Valuing teachers, improving their status.’ But are we really being valued?” said Louie Zabala, Manila Public School Teachers Association (MPSTA) president.
Aside from additional infrastructures and teachers, salary hike and benefits, he said the change that teachers and the Filipino people need is one which allows the country’s resources to be enjoyed by the poor and not only by the rich.
He added that for as long as there are policies that further aggravate their already difficult conditions such as excessive taxation and non-prioritization of budget for social services like health and education, then there is still no genuine change.