Teachers bewail ‘crumbs,’ warn of more protests
Public school teachers trooped to the House of Representatives on Thursday to bemoan the budget department’s P31-billion allocation for the next pay increase of government employees, asserting that they would not “meekly accept the crumbs” offered to them.
Joselyn Martinez, chair of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) which has called for a P30,000 entry-level salary, said President Duterte’s administration should expect “bolder and broader protest actions from the very ranks of its workers in the next days.”
“Our worst fear has happened,” Martinez said. “We feel shortchanged by this government.”
Despite repeatedly promising teachers a wage increase, Mr. Duterte did not mention the issue in his State of the Nation Address until this year. But he said it would “not be that big” and would be incorporated into a broader salary increase package for all government workers.
His statement was a portentous sign to teachers and a stark departure from his previous pledges to substantially raise—even double—their pay.
If the P31 billion proposed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) was to be spread evenly among the country’s 1.2 million government workers, it would mean a daily increase of not more than P70 each.
Martinez said entry-level teachers could end up with even less take-home pay under the increase—which would still need the approval of Congress—as it might be just just enough to do away with their tax-exempt status.
“When [Mr. Duterte] increased the tax exemption threshold, inflation soared due to excise taxes,” Martinez said. “Now that he is giving paltry pay hikes, we will lose the tax exemption. We know our math, we have not gained any benefits under this administration.”
The country’s 300,000 entry-level educators make up the bulk of the workforce among Department of Education teachers.
ACT, the country’s largest teachers’ union, also pointed out the sharp difference between the P31 billion allotted to government workers and the P76 billion appropriated for uniformed personnel when their pay was doubled.
“While Duterte puts billions of money [in] peace and order, he, on the contrary, invites greater unrest as he continues to fail [to make good on] his own promises,” Martinez said. “Genuine peace and progress can never be achieved when ordinary citizens, including the government workers, suffer in poverty.”
Government workers received this year the last tranche of increases under the Salary Standardization Law during the previous Aquino administration. That law has given teachers a P500 raise each year since 2015.
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