This was the answer of the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) on the recent statement made by Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones as regards to their call for an increase in the salaries of public school teachers. Benjo Basas, the group’s national Chairperson said that they knew from the start that they will “never get rich by embracing the teaching profession and teachers do not want to earn millions from this job, otherwise, we will find another employment. This is about a decent salary that we so deserve as employees, public servants and most especially as teachers.”
Basas said that teachers were hurt when they heard such a statement from the Secretary, “as if we only want more money to our pockets. Let me reiterate that our demand for a salary increase is based not only on economics. Salaries manifest the value of a given profession and their role in society. Thus, if the teachers would only receive P20, 754 then that is their value, their price. I bet even the Secretary would agree that this is not commensurate to our roles and expected output to our profession. This is not about money indeed, this is about our dignity.”
Basas argued that there are international standards and even national policies that recommend for a better compensation package for public school teachers and the DepEd, being the shepherded of teachers in the Philippines should be in the frontlines to defend the correctness of the salary increase for them.
The TDC in 2015 challenged the presidential candidates to act on their demand for a P10, 000 across-the-board increase in their salaries, the then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and his running mate, former Senator Alan Cayetano made a promise to grant such should they win the 2016 elections, making it a campaign promise. Cayetano is the main author of said bill in the Senate during the 16th Congress. And while the government last year made the salaries of the lowest post in the military and uniformed personnel doubled, teachers told to wait even longer.
Basas also contested the secretary’s statement that increasing teachers’ salaries would also mean that the government would need to give additional pay to other government employees because the bill, according to him specifically provides that teachers will be given additional compensation over and above the mandate of salary standardization law, a generic law that mandates the salary scale of most of the government employees, including teachers. The scheme under the SSL was begun in 1989, during the time of President Corazon Aquino and with minor changes, has been the same scheme up to the present.
“We want to remind the secretary that the increase in our salaries under the current policy which is Executive Order No. 201 signed by President Aquino in 2016 only provided a total of P2, 205 for the entry-level position of teachers. Said amount was further divided into four or an amount of more than P500 added in our monthly pay every year up to the present.” Basas furthered.
The Secretary stressed that a 150 billion pesos needed for the initial increase for teachers would be a burden for taxpayers and would definitely affect the prices as it would be the cause of inflation “are we citizens prepared to pay additional taxes to cover the 150B?” asks the secretary in a separate interview.
Meanwhile, Basas also gave a comment on the controversy involving a toilet converted into faculty room in Bacoor City, he said “The DepEd should address the matter fairly. It’s no drama, as it is never an isolated case and often, the teachers have no other choice and forced to use old comfort rooms or part of the school lobby as their faculty room. That was my own experience when I was in my practice teaching in Araullo High School, Manila and when I hired as a permanent teacher in Baesa High School, Caloocan City for 17 years.”
Basas appealed to Briones to be more sensitive in her statements but said that their group is still willing to sit for a dialogue to explain their side on the matter and to further discuss several other concerns of teachers.
“Bilang aming ina sa Kagawaran, inaasahan sana namin ang lubos na pagkalinga, pang-unawa at suporta mula kay Sec. Liling Briones. Subalit sa mga nakalipas niyang pahayag ay hindi kami makaramdam ng malasakit at suporta at tila siya pa ang nakakapigil upang maibigay ang matagal na naming hinihinging umento sa sahod na ipinangako rin naman ng gobyerno. Nakahanda kaming maupo sa isang dayalogo sa kanya o sa Pangulo mismo upang ilinaw ang mga usaping ito. But we ask her to refrain from making statements that in one way or another would insult and hurt our teachers. As her subordinates, we expect a motherly compassion.” Basas ended.
Benjo Basas, National Chairperson
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