TAGUM CITY, Philippines—Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the issue of teachers’ debts is a “decades-old drama” which prompted the agency to promulgate mechanism to end the practice of teachers’ over-borrowing.
“The issue of teachers’ debts is a decades-old drama starring the teachers as borrowers,” said Briones in a statement on Thursday, November 10.
According to Briones, the damage of over-borrowing on lives of teachers and their families has been going on for years and it could no longer continue.
In 2016 alone, she said that 26,000 public school teachers “could not avail of their retirement benefits due to unpaid loans.”
Briones’ statement came after she was criticized for issuing an order that would allow loan payments to be deducted from the public school teacher’s salaries.
The education secretary issued DepEd Order No. 38, series of 2017, an order which gives authority to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) to deduct loan payments from the teachers’ salaries.
Prior to Department Order No. 38, the DepEd issued early on Department Order No. 12 series of 2017 which sets the P4,000 net take home pay of public school teachers.
The recent DepEd order 38, meanwhile, reduces the teachers’ net take home pay lower than the P4, 000 threshold because of the deductions included in the payroll.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines viewed Briones’ order as “arbitrary” and an attack against “lowly paid education personnel.”
“Fellow teachers and public servants, we are under the attack of neoliberal reforms that maintain meager salary, deficient benefits, oppressive tax reform and rotting education system,” ACT Chairperson Benjamin Valbuena said in a statement.
Briones defended her order, saying that DepEd “benefits the least” because it merely deducts loan payments authorized by teachers to be paid to GSIS and other private lending institutions (PLIs).
She reiterated that the DepEd is currently exploring measures that would enable teaching and non-teaching personnel to manage their finances to prepare for a better future.
The measures include the reduction of interest rates on loans through the expansion of the DepEd Provident Fund and coordination with GSIS on loan buyouts, which will restructure an employee-borrower’s PLI loans. GSIS would also offer lower interest rates on a longer payment term. (davaotoday.com)