DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) dared Secretary Leonor Briones to a debate about the salary increase. ACT said that teachers are ‘fed up’ with the education chief’s ‘distortion of facts, malicious innuendo and endless alibis to dissuade the clamour for substantial pay hike for teachers.’

“Sec. Briones is relentless in crusading against teachers’ pay hike, lately speaking before a conference of private school owners and giving media interviews in a bid to invalidate the bases of our just demand for better pay. Why don’t she tell these things in front of us teachers and give us the equal opportunity to refute her claims and prove her wrong?” said Joselyn Martinez, ACT National Chairperson.

Martinez belied the claims of Sec. Briones wherein the Secretary said that the teachers had received allowances from local governments of about five to six figures, thus there is no urgency of salary increase.

“The fact is, only a minority of public school teachers get allowances from local governments, usually those in cities can afford such and at varying amounts, but its yearly sum would surely not exceed 15% of the teachers’ annual salaries,” stated Martinez.

Also, Martinez refuted Briones saying that the ‘summer vacation’ is one of the ‘exclusive benefits of teachers.’

“The secretary is not being precise. The truth is teachers are the only government employees who are not entitled to sick leave. If we’re absent, our salary will be deducted, or we can off-set it with advance labor that we have rendered. We have no regular salaries during summer vacation. What we get is the proportional vacation pay, which we earn by diligently completing the school days. The summer pay would even be deducted if we have absences during school days,” explained Martinez.

Martinez also exposed the irregularities of the DepEd in giving the teachers the special hardship allowance in which the DepEd made the guidelines so stringent that only those who cross mountains and rivers to get to schools were qualified. She also said that the ceiling cost set on hardship allowance is not even enough to cover the transportation expenses of teachers who teach in the most remote areas.

Meanwhile, Martinez called attention to Sec. Briones’ ‘defensiveness’ when her compensation was being scrutinized by the public.

“The Secretary is being extra astute in differentiating salaries, allowances and actual expenses when her compensation is being examined but indiscriminately lumps everything together when teachers’ compensation is being discussed. This is a clear application of double standards to avert attention from the excessive pay of high officials and project that teachers’ compensation is larger than what it really is,” pointed Martinez.

The DepEd had earlier released a computation for Teacher I compensation which amounted to Php30,873 monthly.

“The sum was derived by adding up the monthly salaries and all annual benefits, including those that are deducted for specific expenses like the clothing and chalk allowance, as well as the government counterpart contributions to GSIS, Philhealth, and PagIbig which do not pass through teachers’ hands,” Martinez said.

Martinez said also said that the wide gap between salaries of teachers and other rank-and-file government employees on one hand, and the realistic computation of cost of living at present on the other, is enough basis to warrant the grant of substantial salary increase.

ACT is preparing for the mobilization of a large contingent of teachers to rally on Pres. Duterte’s State of the Nation Address on July 22 to call for the fulfillment of the president’s promise of raising teachers’ pay. (davaotoday.com)

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