Teachers: ‘Government circular insulting’

TEACHERS called a recent circular signed by the Budget and Management, Education, and Interior and Local Government departments “an insult to Filipino teachers.”

Teachers groups led by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers marched to Mendiola, and later to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) offices, to protest Joint Circular 1, series of 2017, which removes the allowance public school teachers receive from the Special Education Fund of their respective local government units.

The circular orders the funds are to be channelled to projects under the controversial K to 12 curricula.

“This is insulting. We are asking for an increase in salaries but the government has decided to take away our benefits instead,” ACT national chairperson Benjamin Valbuena said.

“The K to 12 program is a project of the national government, so why are they asking the local government units to fund it at our expense instead of funding it themselves?” Valbuena asked.

At the rally before DBM, leaders of the protest were invited inside to dialogue with officials but later returned to the protest with renewed fury, saying the agency refused to listen to their petition.

“Their defiance of our rights has gone beyond insults. It has become a challenge that we must meet, lest the nation’s teachers continue to suffer poor living conditions,” Manila Public School Teacher Association’s Louie Zabala said.

The teachers also criticized President Rodrigo Duterte for not fulfilling his promises to raise the salaries of educators.

“His officials say we are too ambitious, and he has done nothing to correct them. How is this change for the better?” ACT representative Antonio Tinio said.

“DBM secretary Benjamin Diokno claims that our salaries are already 27,000 monthly.  But he merely averaged our annual basic pay and benefits. The reality is a far cry from our demands for 25,000 monthly basic pay,” Valbuena said.

“Even Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones has said that teacher’s salaries are high enough in defense of the joint circular,” Tinio said.

“This is just another promise Duterte failed to fulfil that we must claim for ourselves,” Tinio added.

Valbuena called on public school teachers to intensify their struggle, citing a similar situation in 1997 when the Ramos administration attempted to do the same thing.

“The united action of teachers from all over the Philippines thwarted the government’s attempt back then. It will do the same again,” he said. (Report and photo by Abril Layad B. Ayroso)