TAGUM CITY – Teachers across the country mounted a protest action today dubbed as “Black armband Friday” to demand increase in their salary and to condemn President Benigno Aquino III’s “arrogant defense” of his controversial use of government savings called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Teachers are expected to display the black arm bands every Friday henceforth until the demands are met, according to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) which organized the protest action.
The ACT said the Friday moverment “is meant to symbolize the continuing utter neglect of the Aquino government despite their strong appeal over issues of low salary and meager benefits”.
ACT, the biggest sectoral party of public school teachers in the country, wants the immediate passage of House Bill 245 to increase the entry level of public school teachers from P18,549 to P25,000 and for the non-teaching personnel from P9,000 to P15,000 per month.
The action was yet to touch off immediate massive support from teachers with many public schools here not showing the protest yet among their faculty members. A check with the ACT in Davao City also disclosed that the organization was still going schools to schools to explain the Friday protest movement.
In a statement, Ms. France Castro, ACT secretary-general, said the members of the organization “will show our resolve for the immediate passage of House Bill 245″.
“Let this be a message to PNoy [President Aquino) that we are not giving up the fight despite his seemingly indifferent and insensitive actions towards our dire living and working conditions,” she said.
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)N is authored by ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio L. Tinio.
As of June 26, there were at 20 party-List representatives who supported the teachers’ demand while close to 100 other Congress representatives have signed as co-author of the bill.
However, a check with the published list of Congress representatives who co-authored the bill, none of the 11 district representatives from Compostela Valley (2), Davao City (3), Davao del Norte (2), Davao del Sur (2) and Davao Oriental (2) provinces have signed the bill as co-author.
“If they are advocating pro-people policy then they should have signed the bill as co-author. I am hoping that they will support the bill because majority of the public teachers and their families will benefit from it,” 38-year old public school teacher Sonia Lativa said.
Like Sonia, public school teacher Grace Mendel (not her real name), 27, said government should “immediately approve the bill to alleviate the poor economic conditions of the teachers.”
She criticized the Aquino administration for its “vicious and purported lie” over its claim of insufficient funds when billions have been spent in controversial allocations such as the DAP the Congress’s pork barrel.
“Now we know that our government has billions of money. Why not use that money to fund the increase in our salary and benefits. Aren’t we [teachers] supposed to be the priority of the government because we mold the young generations who are soon to-be-leaders of this country,” she asked.
Castro said the Black Armband Friday protest “will show their disgust over Aquino for his desperate defense of DAP and call for his immediate ouster.”
“While we call for salary increase, we also call for the immediate prosecution of all politicians, government officials and private individuals involved in the multi-billion pork barrel scam and DAP. The prosecution must not be focused only to the members of the opposition bloc. Let no one escape from these crimes.”
ACT has also called for the scrapping of Performance-based Bonus (PBB) which they branded as “divisive, deceptive and discriminatory.”
This as the group claimed that 528,000 teachers and 72,000 non-teaching personnel from 42,000 elementary and high schools in the country used to receive P10,000 each annually in Performance Enhancement Incentive but was slashed in half because of DepEd’s impounded allocation amounting to P3 billion in years 2012 and 2013.
“We demand the Aquino administration to heed our call as we hold the government accountable for misery and hardships he caused to the lives of the teachers. Increase the teachers’ salary and scrap the PBB. PNoy is of no difference from his predecessors. And thus we say, lahat ng sangkot, DAPat managot!,” Castro said. (davaotoday.com)