Teachers protest the delay in the release of their performance-based bonuses.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Christmas is just two weeks away, and public school teachers are enraged that theirs might be a grim one as they have yet to receive their Performance-Based Bonus (PBB), which was has already been released to employees of various government agencies.
Carrying black lanterns with calls, “PBB mapanghati, ibasura” and “Pasko na, PBB wala pa,” (Junk the divisive PBB! It’s Christmas already but we have not yet received our PBB!) public school teachers trooped to Gate 7 of Malacañang Palace, on Nov. 29, Tuesday, to demand the release of their bonuses President Rodrigo Duterte.
Benjie Valbuena, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) national chairperson said that a Department Memorandum from Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that the PBB will be released on October, but they have not received their bonuses even as November ended.
The PBB is a yearly incentive given to all qualified government employees. It ranges from P5,000 ($100) to P35,000 ($703), depending on the agency’s performance for the past year. This was first implemented during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.
The teachers’ group ACT has opposed the implementation of PBB since the beginning. The group said it has been more of a burden to teachers as they have to meet targets set by the Department of Education.
“It is divisive, discriminating and worst of all, delayed,” said Joselyn Martinez, ACT-NCR Union president in the program.
Martinez said teachers have been working hard to teach students in oversized classes, or more than the standard of 35 students per class. But such hard work is not enough, she said.
Performance is based on the ranking of their schools in the National Achievement Test (NAT), the number of drop outs and the use of the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) budget of the school.
A low average score of students in NAT means lower ranking, thus, smaller bonus; it goes the same when a big number of students drop out, and when the school failed to utilize the MOOE.
But Martinez asserted there are factors beyond their control, such as the drop out of students. “What can we do if students drop out due to lack of money, because their parents could not any more send them to school,” she said. The MOOE, on the other hand, is being handled by the school heads.
Oliver Baltazar, 37, a math teacher at the San Juan National High School, said they have been exerting efforts to meet targets, like tracking the students who fail to come to class regularly.
He said setting targets and making it the basis of their performance is not fair to public school teachers. For one, he said there are public schools that are better off than others, such as science schools that seldom have students dropping out, and rank high in NAT.
Remedios Limare, 62, has been a public school teacher for 27 years. She said she loves teaching, but feels that her love is not being reciprocated — not by her students, but by the government.
“I am 62 now, but I still don’t have my own money. I have acquired loans, which, up to now, I am still paying,” she said.
Martinez said the government should not delay the teachers’ well deserved bonuses. She said teachers have spent their salaries paying loans, and their bonuses are the only way that they can augment their expenses, especially since Christmas is approaching. Teachers also often shell out their own money to pay for printing and purchasing teaching aids and materials.
Limare and Baltazar believe that the government should heed their call for a salary increase, which is P25,000 ($502) as proposed by ACT Teachers’ Partylist, and much bigger than the P2,000 ($40) to be given in four tranches under the Salary Standardization Law. The latest SSL was signed by President Aquino.
In response to the teachers’ call, DepEd issued a statement saying that teachers will receive their bonuses before the year ends.
They will also receive other benefits before Dec. 15. On increasing teachers’ salaries, the department said it “is being duly recognized and considered by the Department, but not without considerations.”
“Given the widening salary gap with private schools and with other service sectors, the inflationary impact, the premium on teachers in Science and Math and senior teachers, and the huge Department population, DepEd must ensure that the fulfillment of this promise is carefully planned in terms of policy and financial requirements,” the statement said.
The teachers vowed to continue their protest to demand their bonuses, as well as to continue their call for decent and living wages.