By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) denounced the Department of Education (DepEd) for making “arbitrary” deductions from teachers’ salaries to pay for the debts they have incurred from the Government Services Insurance System (GSIS) and private lending institutions (PLIs).
Education Secretary Leonor Briones reportedly wanted to teach “financial literacy” to resolve teachers’ overborrowing. This weekend, teachers reported to ACT that they received salaries as low as P200 ($4).
The Facebook pages of ACT and ACT-National Capital Region (NCR) were bombarded by teachers’ complaints and grievances. Teachers complained that DepEd did not consult or inform them that their loans, even from private lenders, would be deducted from their salaries. Many were shocked to find out that their salaries were much lower than the P4,000 ($77) net take home pay.
“Fellow teachers and public servants, we are under the attack of neoliberal reforms that maintain meager salary, deficient benefits, oppressive tax reform and rotting education system,” said ACT chairperson Benjamin Valbuena in a statement.
ACT cited that although Section 47 of the General Appropriations Act of 2017 authorizes the deduction of employees’ contributions or obligations from their salaries, it also said that such deductions should not reduce the employee’s monthly net take home pay to lower than P4,000 ($77).
“We received a lot of reports from the National Capital Region and other regions where teachers and employees received only P200 to P1,900 ($37) upon withdrawal of their salaries. We demand that the ceiling of P4,000 as their net take home pay be maintained,” Valbuena said.
The DepEd even released Department Order No. 12 series of 2017 last March ordering school divisions to implement the P4,000 net take home pay (NTHP). However, DepEd issued another one, Department Order No. 38 which said: “Notwithstanding the new threshold limit on NTHP, deductions already incorporated in the payroll, shall be continued, even if this effectively reduces the NTHP to lower than the P4,000 threshold.”
In a news report, Briones said that teachers’ loans have reached P300 billion ($5.8 billion) from private and public lending institutions. She said that these loans are getting bigger and something has to be done.
Valbuena said that Briones should have first considered the impact of deductions on teachers’ salaries. He said teachers and other education personnel are already in a cycle of indebtedness since there was no significant increase in their salaries.
ACT has been criticizing government’s salary increase as “mere alms” as it has not even reached the family living wage (FLW) set by Ibon Foundation, at P1,145 ($22) a day. The FLW is the amount needed by a low-income family of six to live decently each day.
“To be able to survive, education personnel have been victims of loan sharks,” Valbuena said.
Even with their legally mandated allowances, teachers lament that they also shell out money for their instructional materials.
“This only shows that our secretary does not care for the teachers despite their hard work and dedication to their profession, ACT-National Capital Region said in a statement in Filipino.
Valbuena also scored how Briones sees “financial literacy” will help teachers, without actually raising their salaries.
“Queuing loan payments and maintaining the net take home pay will not solve the problem unless salaries will meet the standard cost of living,” he said. But their call for “a just salary increase” has been ignored, Valbuena said.