‘Ghost’ teachers still haunt ARMM

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11:24 PM January 28th, 2012

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January 28th, 2012 11:24 PM

The name of Laly Sumampil Muntasir, a teacher at Mabini Elementary School in Lamitan City in Basilan, continues to appear on the payroll of the Department of Education (DepEd) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), nearly a year after she died of a heart attack.

What was more surprising, according to Edren Lindio, the city’s DepEd planning officer, was that her salaries and bonuses were still being withdrawn from a Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) branch in the provincial capital, Isabela City. The latest withdrawal—made by unidentified persons—involved P15,741.18, supposedly representing her salary for December last year, and P10,000 in Christmas bonus.

Lindio said Muntasir’s death had been properly relayed to the DepEd-ARMM’s payroll and service unit (RPSU).

Retiree’s case

Lilia Tormento, a teacher at the same school, said she had personally notified the department of her retirement in July last year so that the process of releasing her benefits could move faster.

To her dismay, Tormento said she discovered that her name was still on the payroll. In fact, another person withdrew her November 2011 salary.

As for her December salary, she personally withdrew it from LBP.

“I executed an affidavit that I was able to receive my salary for the month of December despite being retired from teaching,” Tormento said, adding that she submitted a formal complaint in the DepEd district office in Lamitan.

Lindio said he could not understand why nonactive teachers continue to draw salaries. He said the payroll his office would submit to the regional office was being updated whenever a public school teacher retires or dies.

“We put remarks on our payroll list submitted to the regional office and advised them (RPSU officials) to stop issuing checks for salaries,” he said.

Same, old payroll

Despite repeated notices, he said, “we keep on receiving the same old payroll report, nothing changed or updated, names of retired and dead teachers are still on their master list.”

More disturbing was that some people were withdrawing the salaries, Lindio said.

Lindio said he had asked LBP officials to furnish them copies of the payroll document so he could determine who had signed and withdrawn salaries for the nonactive teachers.

Mujiv Hataman, ARMM acting governor, said the cases of Muntasir and Tormento were just among the “countless cases of ghost teachers and anomalous transactions” at the DepEd.

“This is just one district in Basilan. There are still big provinces like Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao,” Hataman said.

He said the newly appointed DepEd ARMM caretaker had admitted that corruption and anomalies were among the biggest problems in the department.

GSIS loans

Moreover, Hataman said, the DepEd had not been remitting premiums or payments for loan amortization made by the teachers to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). The unremitted amount now totaled P1.9 billion, he said.

Nash Maulana, director of the ARMM’s Bureau of Public Information, said withholding taxes are automatically remitted to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

Hataman pointed out another glaring irregularity in the DepEd payroll system. A number of teachers have no traceable addresses or schools of assignments indicated after their names.

“I have directed them (department officials) to produce to me in a month’s time the document of the number of schools with the number of performing teachers,” he said.

“So far,” Hataman said, “I encountered more than a hundred ghost teachers.”

Who’s fault?

Former Education Regional Secretary Baratucal Caudang declined to take the blame for the anomaly.

“Nothing irregular or anomalous under my term, I have instituted reforms and transparency and I have nothing to worry on this,” he said.

Caudang said he should not be blamed for the mistakes of his predecessors, alluding to former secretaries under the Pangandaman, Misuari and Ampatuan administrations.

Hataman said the initial step his administration had undertaken was to require all teachers to apply for automated teller machine (ATM) cards. The problem on ghost teachers and employees in the ARMM could be addressed by technology, he said.

He said the idea was carried out after consulting computer experts on how to deal with the “ghost problem” hounding the ARMM for the past 22 years.

Valid bank account

“We have to put an end to these irregularities,” he said. A valid bank account is one way of ensuring the existence of an employee, he said.

Hataman said he expected all employees to have ATM cards by February. In the meantime, teachers who have not been issued ATM cards yet will draw their salaries from the Office of the Regional Governor in Cotabato City.

The lack of ATMs in remote areas of the region is not a compelling reason to make exemptions, according to Hataman. He said he was not convinced that teachers there cannot visit a more developed town near them at least once a month.

“We wanted that the problem on ghost employees, particularly at the Department of Education, will be solved after 100 days,” he said. With reports from Charlie Señase and Edwin Fernandez

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