Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 3,  Number 26               August 3 - 9, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines


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Teachers Worse Off Than Soldiers
Or why mutineer Trillanes would be in a worse rut as a teacher

The Magdalo group’s siege of Oakwood Hotel in Makati City last July 27, a day before the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), highlighted the sorry plight of soldiers who have to make do with, among others, low salaries. Due to his disenchantment with the military, Navy Lt. Senior Grade Antonio Trillanes IV, was quoted as saying that he may quit the service and go into teaching instead. If his plan materializes, he will find himself in the same rut, given the unrewarding toil that teachers go through.


Compared to teachers, soldiers are somewhat better off although privates and junior officers are also subjected to exploitation and oppression by their superiors.

While the Magdalo group’s manner of seeking redress through an armed uprising may not sit well with the public, even the government admits that the gripes of disgruntled soldiers in Oakwood Hotel last July 27 are legitimate.

Unlike the soldiers, however, the government does not recognize the legitimacy of the teachers’ demands. This had been the case through the years, even if public school teachers comprise about one-third of the bureaucracy, the biggest sector among government employees.

During the administration of ousted President Joseph Estrada, teachers were even branded hotheaded and impatient when they asked why their salaries were delayed. In October 1999, Estrada scrapped the teachers’ amelioration pay since this meant savings for the administration amounting to P10.5 billion. The amelioration pay is supposed to be equivalent to the teacher’s one month salary, but not less than P7,500 ($138.25, based on an exchange rate of P54.25 per US dollar).

At the height of the controversy which involved the use of expensive vehicles of education officials including then Education Secretary Andrew Gonzales, the latter even chastised complaining teachers for failing the understand the “necessity” of his use of a Ford Expedition instead of a cheaper model.

No different

The current administration proves to be no different, since teachers as a sector have not yet experienced any salary increase.

The Arroyo administration also still refuses to grant the backpay of the cost of living allowance (COLA) from 1989 to 1999, even if lawyers like the General Counsel of the University of the Philippines (UP) argue that there is “more than enough” legal basis to do so. Assuming that he or she has worked in government continuously from 1989 to 1999, a worker can get as much as P70,000 ($1,290.32) from this backpay.

Aside from the continuing fight to regain their benefits, teachers have to struggle with very low wages.

A public school teacher with the item Teacher 1 (Salary Grade 10) only receives a gross pay of P9,939 ($183.21) monthly. In the military establishment, a Private gets the same salary, according to public school teacher Charito Siapno.

At the college level, an Instructor 1 (Salary Grade 14) gets a gross monthly pay of P12,546 ($231.26). Based on Siapno’s research, a Staff Sergeant gets the same salary since he or she belongs to the same salary grade.

In her July 11 open letter to President Arroyo, Siapno also “sees the folly of (the situation where a Chief) Master Sergeant (has) the same salary as the District Supervisor II of DepEd (Department of Education).” She claims, “The Master Sergeant…is just a high school graduate compared with principals and supervisors who are holders of Master's Degree.”

In addition, an Assistant Professor 1 at the college level belongs to the same salary grade of a Chief M/Sgt and District Supervisor II (i.e., Salary Grade 18) and consequently receives a gross monthly pay of P15,841 ($292).

Higher salary for PMA cadet

As regards salaries, Siapno asked if “this administration looks so lowly at…the teachers.” She stressed that a cadet of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) belongs to Salary Grade 19 and “receives an even higher salary than the District Supervisor who is an MA degree holder and who has served the government at least 15 years.”

Despite the discrimination against teachers, low-ranked public school teachers, junior faculty, privates and junior officers in the military all receive salaries that are below the prescribed family living wage.

According to the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC), a family of six living in Metro Manila needs to earn P556 ($10.25) daily or P16,680 ($307.46) monthly to fulfill food and non-food requirements, as well as provide for 10% savings.

In other regions, the family living wage ranges from P366 ($6.75) daily (Eastern Visayas) to P714 ($13.16) daily (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao). This means that on a monthly basis, a family of six needs to earn from P10,980 ($202.40) to P21,420 ($394.84).

Indeed, teachers may be worse off than soldiers, but they are both in the same rut as far as government neglect is concerned.

Neglect, however, may now be an understatement, as “abandonment” proves to be the more appropriate term. Bulatlat.com

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