“Even the Duterte regime could not deny that working people, including teachers, badly need economic relief. But we cannot fill our families’ stomachs with Duterte’s pompous talk and empty recognition.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Public school teachers led by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) stormed Malacanang Palace Gate 6 today, April 27 and slammed President Duterte’s failure to heed their long time call for substantial salary increase for government employees.
This, following the recent Pulse Asia survey showing that Filipinos are now becoming concerned about pay hike.
“Salary increase is a highly sensitive issue for teachers and it is abominable how the Duterte regime has first played around with, then turned a deaf ear to our urgent call for economic relief,” said Raymond Basilio, ACT Philippines secretary general, referring to Duterte’s campaign promise for salary hike for teachers, which up to now is still unfulfilled.
The group said the salary increase issue today is urgent due to the continuing increases in prices of basic commodities resulting from the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.
“The urgency for salary increase has doubled since the implementation of the TRAIN Law in January 2018. Teachers are already 80 percent deep in debt last year,” said Basilio.
He criticized Duterte for giving high hopes to teachers when he announced that he would increase their salaries after the pay hike of military and uniformed personnel (MUP) but later backtracked and said they have to wait until 2020. He described the Duterte government as “grossly insensitive to teachers’ feelings and grumbling stomachs.”
Military and uniformed personnel’s pay was increased in January this year.
Read: Salary increases for soldiers, police but not for teachers, government employees
During the protest, the teachers held packs of rice, dried fish and instant noodles to depict what their meagre salaries could afford under the Duterte administration. They also bared their tummies bearing their demands for pay hike.
According to Ibon Foundation, the prices of basic commodities have doubled. A bundle of vegetables now costs P10.00 from the previous P5.00 per bundle while the price of rice has increased by P2.00 to P3.00 per kilo.
Read: First quarter of TRAIN: A preview of the worse to come for the poor
Aquino’s EO insufficient
Before President Benigno Aquino III’s administration ended, he signed Executive Order No. 201, giving salary increases to government employees. But this EO was highly criticized by ACT due to the minimal increase for rank-and-file employees while higher positions received higher amounts.
Read: Salary hike for high-ranking officials ‘undemocratic’ – thinktank
For example, rank-and-file employees only received a 20 percent increase while officials in higher positions had more than 100 percent pay hike.
Basilio said the salary increase that teachers received from the third year implementation of Aquino’s EO 21 is now insufficient.
“Inflation has gobbled up whatever meagre increase the teachers got from income tax exemption and Executive Order 201 of then President Aquino,” Basilio said.
He said more public school teachers are now pushed to take drastic measures such as “sangla-ATM” (pawning of ATM card) to cope with the rising cost of basic goods.
Some are forced to take sideline jobs such as tutorials and online-selling amid the “already burdensome workload of teachers, and downgrading family diet and expenses just to make both ends meet,” Basilio lamented.
He added that at least P30,000 ($380) is needed for a family of six to live decently, which is a far cry from the present salary of Teacher 1 position amounting to P17,985 ($348).
“Even the Duterte regime could not deny that working people, including teachers, badly need economic relief. But we cannot fill our families’ stomachs with Duterte’s pompous talk and empty recognition. What we need is substantial salary increase now!” Basilio stressed.