By TYRONE A. VELEZ
Davao City — A national teachers group joined anti-pork protests Friday in various cities in the country, on the eve of World Teachers’ Day, as they slammed President Benigno Aquino’s defense of maintaining his discretionary fund while refusing to increase their salaries.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) mobilized teachers in rallies in the cities of Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Ozamiz, Butuan and Cebu.
In Davao City, the ACT chapter joined the Pagbabago Movement for Social Change, a recently formed alliance advocating good governance, in a rally at the Centennial Park, in front the City Council building.
ACT Davao President, Elenito Escalante, said public school teachers “are losing patience over the state of public education amidst the controversial PDAF and DAP hounding the Aquino administration”.
The abuse by senators and Congress representatives of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or the pork barrel, has generated a national outcry, and some sectors began to clamor for a similar evaluation of how the President’s special funds and social funds could also be exposed to abuse. Recently, militant groups and government critics pointed at the President’s use of the budgetary savings, called the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of national government agencies which otherwise would have been remitted the national treasury.
“Despite the lack of books, classrooms and school toilets, and our meager salaries because the government says there is no budget for it, we persevered to give the best to our students, only to know that billions of publics funds were lost to corruption,” Escalante said during the rally.
World Teachers’ Day is celebrated every October 5 to commemorate the adoption of the recommendations in 1966 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization-International Labor Organization concerning the status of teachers.
This has been considered a landmark document that recognized the duty of governments to promote and protect the rights of teachers to adequate remuneration, among others.
But ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio said President Aquino had rebuffed the teachers’ demand for an increase in minimum pay.
Last week, Budget Secretary Butch Abad told budget deliberations that salary increases “would entail a huge amount of money” and will study if it is the “appropriate time” to allow for such increase.
Tinio said, however, that increasing the minimum pay for teachers would only mean an addition of P5 billion, “an amount that would barely make a dent in PNoy’s pork.”
The controversial “pork barrel” of Aquino, or President Social Fund, is worth P964 billion.
“The President hangs on to pork barrel funds, but for the just demands of public school teachers and other government employees, he gives nothing,” said Tinio.
Teachers have demanded a starting monthly salary of P25,000, from the current minimum of P18,549. Non-teaching personnel wanted P15,000 minimum for Salary Grade 1, from the current P9,000. These demands were included in Tinio’s House Bill 245,or An Act Increasing the Minimum Monthly Salaries of Public School Teachers to Twenty Five Thousand Pesos (P25,000) and Non-Teaching Personnel to Fifteen Thousand Pesos (P15,000).
Public education budget got the highest allocation with P293 billion this year, and would be increased to P336.9 billion next year.
Government statistics said however, that public spending is only 3.3% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Public education also suffered from shortages of 61,000 teachers and 66,000 classrooms nationwide.
Tinio, who is also House Assistant Minority Floor Leader, also slammed the administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program, in which Malacanang pooled the savings or the unused funds of government agencies and programs and realigned them to programs without approval of Congress.
“It is nothing less than the President arrogating unto himself the power of the purse. It is Presidential discretion over public funds gone wild,” he said.
Tinio warned that this would only fuel the teachers’ protest. “They would demand accounting from the President and his minions for their abuse of the people’s coffers which should be allotted for the pay increase and benefits of teachers and non-teaching personnel.”
Meanwhile, the Abolish Pork Movement Cagayan de Oro held a noise barrage and candle lighting at the city’s Magsaysay Park, Divisoria,
“Kagay-anon joins the million voices of protestors in Ayala, Makati and elsewhere in their shout to end the systemic corruption largely manipulated by the pork barrel queen, Napoles, and now being perpetuated by the pork barrel King, President Aquino III” said Fr. June Mark Yanez, the movement’s spokesperson.
The rallies complemented the Fifth Million People March in Makati, where the Abolish Pork Movement convener Fr. Joe Dizon said also warned President Aquino that he would be held accountable for the controversy surrounding DAP.
“We are holding President Aquino ultimately accountable for the entire pork fund mess. It is within his power to push for changes in the system yet he stubbornly refuses to do so, and instead promotes the system of pork. The issue has now reached his office, with the Disbursement Acceleration Program now in the spotlight,”
“What we find disturbing is how the corrupt system of patronage has taken on new forms over the years. We have PDAF, then there is the DAP, and now there’s even a so-called leadership bonus in Congress. Now we have so-called government savings being converted into pork. This government does not want to do away with pork. It worships pork and wants to perpetuate the corrupt system,” Dizon added. (Tyrone A. Velez/davaotoday.com)DAP, davao city teachers, educaiton budget philippines, Education, employment, PDAT, pork barrel, presidential pork, world teachers day