Teachers Lobby For Salary Increase

by Anne Marxze D. Umil

MANILA – Raf Anthony Begornia, 27, grade eight teacher at the Bagong Silangan National High School in Quezon City, single, still finds it difficult to make both ends meet with his P18, 549 ($426) salary as teacher 1. He said his salary not only provides for his own needs and augments his family’s expenses but also shoulders the cost of teaching materials, which should be provided by the government.

“I spend my salary for rent, transportation, food. Enormous tax is also deducted from our salary. We also have to spend for visual aids, bond papers, printing of materials and research,” Begornia said in an interview with this reporter.

He said it is time for the government to heed the longtime demand of public school teachers for salary increase. On Monday, Sept. 8, after his morning class, Begornia joined the march of public school teachers to the House of Representatives (HOR).

Some 2,000 public school teachers trooped to the south wing gate of the HOR carrying banners that called for an increase in the salary of teachers and employees and enactment of House Bill 245.

House Bill 245 is proposing to increase the salary of teachers to P25,000 ($574) from P18,549, and the salary of non-teaching personnel to P15,000 ($344) from P9,000 ($206).

The public school teachers timed their protest on the day of the budget hearing of the Department of Education (DepEd).

“We are here today to once again assert our demand for salary increase. Five years under President Benigno S. Aquino III’s administration, we still did not feel any sense of relief under this government,” said Joselyn Martinez, deputy chairwoman of ACT and a grade three teacher from Malabon.

The DepEd proposes a P365 billion ($84 million) budget for 2015. Though the present budget proposal is 18 percent higher than the previous year, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said it still does not meet the UNESCO recommendation for the allotment for the education sector of six percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“The administration of President Benigno S. Aquino is only allotting 2.2 percent of our GDP for education. It doesn’t even reach half of the UN recommendation,” said ACT secretary-general France Castro.

That is why, Castro said, the public school system still suffers from shortages of chairs, classrooms, rest rooms, textbooks, teaching modules and text book. “We continue to be deprived of the right to live a decent life through living wages.”

Members of “T3, London”

“How many times have you been to London?” Castro asked the teachers during the protest action in front of the HOR. The teachers, laughed in response to Castro. “London” is their glamorized term for “Loan-dito, Loan-doon” (loan here and there).

Froilan Tindugan, a grade seven teacher from Ceolito High School in Caloocan City, said his family is forced to get one loan after another to support his children’s education. “One loan is not yet paid but we are getting a loan again because our salary cannot cover all our needs.” He said he has three children, all of whom are studying. Additional income comes from their small variety store but is still not enough.

Linjun Pandita, 39, a Technology and Living Education (TLE) teacher from Judge Feliciano Belmonte Sr. High School also in Quezon City said that because teachers often spend for their teaching needs, their family’s needs are being compromised.

“We have to spend for the beautification of our classroom for it to be conducive to learning. Although there are parents who are willing to contribute, it is still not enough so we have to also shell out,” she said. Pandita added that they cannot force students to contribute especially many of their students also work to make a living. “Some of them don’t have snacks when they come to school. I am a parent too, and I cannot simply let them suffer, so we teachers help them,” she added.

And because their salary is just not enough, she too has “become a member” of “T3” or Teachers whose take home pay is only P3,000 ($69) out of their P18,549 monthly salary.

Meanwhile, Louie Zabala, president of the Manila Public School Teachers Association (MPSTA) and a teacher at F.G. Calderon Integrated High School in Manila, said the killing of three teachers in Pangasinan National High School because of unpaid loans symbolizes the neglect of Aquino government to the teachers as well as the people who have been grappling with poverty.

121 supporters of HB 245

ACT Representative Antonio Tinio said, “By refusing to enact salary increases despite the continuing rise of the cost of living, the government itself is the very cause of the suffering of its employees.”

Tinio said that the 2015 budget is the right opportunity to make immediate pay hikes possible. He said the recent junking of four impeachment complaints against Aquino proves that he could push Congress, which is led by his party and coalition allies, to do anything if he wants to or if it would be to his benefit.

“This time, we dare him to push Congress to do what is to the benefit of the people—to amend the 2015 budget bill with a provision for salary increases.”

According to Tinio, 121 among his colleagues in the HOR support the salary increase for teachers and non-teaching personnel. Senator Grace Poe and Loren Legarda have filed a counterpart bill in the Senate. “It is only Aquino who does not act on the urgent needs of our public school teachers,” Tinio said.

“It is time that the government heeds the call of the public school teachers. Although I am single, the salary I get is still wanting because I have to spend for teaching materials. We also help our students who have nothing so that they will not stop from coming from school,” Richer Fernandez, a fourth year teacher from Judge Feliciano Belmonte Sr. High School said.

“Teachers receive a measly pay and yet the demand from us is very high. We have loads of work to do aside from teaching. There is even a risk to be fired from our job when we commit a mistake,” Renanto Corpuz, 39, grade five teacher from Guadalupe Viejo Elementary School in Makati City lamented. And with that, he said teachers do not feel that the government cared for them.

Fernandez also lamented, “We are called professionals, we are even called heroes but we do not feel like one.”

Tinio commend the thousands of teachers who came for the grand lobbying for salary increase. “Your collective action is important to push the Aquino government to act on the public school teachers’ long time demand for salary increase.” (bulatlat.com)

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