“It’s the low salary that is pushing teachers to go out in the streets and protest.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — A teacher of 20 years, Mina Vibar’s story is no different.
Overworked and underpaid, the likes of Vibar still dig from their own pockets to help a student in need. Still, she considers teaching as the most fulfilling profession.
Today, however, Vibar veered from her usual routine. She and her fellow teachers from Malabon joined today’s march to the foot of Chino Roces bridge (former Mendiola bridge), a stone’s throw away from Malacañang, to call for salary increase – a P30,000 ($580) entry-level wage for public school teachers.
It’s the low salary that is pushing teachers to go out in the streets and protest. (What we receive now) does not commensurate to our daily grind,” she told Bulatlat.
Festive but defiant
To describe the mood of the protest as “festive” is an understatement. Many appeared to be “first timers” in joining a protest action – ready to flash a smile for the camera but are quick to decline interviews.
“Yung president na lang po namin,” they bashfully said.
But all these diffidence disappear as soon as its time to chant their calls.
One teacher even stole the scene and nailed her catwalk ala “Daniela Mondragon” of a popular afternoon television series.
In the days leading to the World Teacher’s Day, teachers have held their “30K” human formation to remind the Duterte administration of its promise to increase their salary.
They have repeated this feat today at the foot of the Mendiola bridge, with printed red hearts to spell out the “30K.”
Apart from teachers, among those who marched to Mendiola today were fellow workers in the public sector and students.
High school student John Tubola from the Western Bicutan National High School, also photojournalist of their student publication, covered today’s protest action.
At school, he said, he has given his teachers “headaches” for his fair share of naughtiness, always being called out for being talkative in class. But today, he is expressing his support to them by documenting their struggle for wage increase.
“I’m happy to be here,” he told Bulatlat.
Fight for higher wage
The sense of festivity was momentarily disrupted when a strong thunderstorm poured, leaving them drenched. Their spirits, however, remained fiery in their struggle.
All Government Employees Unity said in a statement that a “scanty” P32 billion ($619 million) is allotted to salary increase of civilian government employees, which is about P49 ($1) a day.
On top of this, All Government Employees Unity said in a statement that the proposed budget for 2020 is bereft of subsidy for social services, citing a P10 billion ($193 million) budget cut for the health department while the Armed Forces of the Philippines gets a modernization program.
“Amidst the hard work of our government workers, the Duterte administration only favors his men in uniform. This is why we are expressing our anger in the streets,” said Courage national chairperson Santiago Dasmariñas Jr.
Instead of recognizing their role, teachers are being threatened to be investigated over their plan to hold month-long activities for the teacher’s month commemoration this October.
A Senate Committee Report No. 10, penned by former police chief and now Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, recommends schools to also probe teachers who encourage students to join rallies.
ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said, “teachers tell their students not to kill, be kind to others and not be agents of the oppressors. If those simple teachings lead students to rebel, then there must be something wrong with the government.”
The teacher turned lawmaker added that teachers will not be complicit to revise history and
Dela Rosa, said Castro, has gifted teachers with “further red-tagging, profiling and harassment for simply doing their duty to aid and guide their students to become critical thinkers for social transformation and not simply become blind followers of the government.”
For Vibar, she said that it is part of their job as teachers to ensure that their students will grow up to be good citizens.
She maintained that their protest actions are within the rights guaranteed to them by the laws of the land.