By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Teachers’ groups reiterate their calls for salary increase following the “irregularities” in the expenditure of the Department of Education (DepEd) as cited in Commission on Audit (CoA) report.
Amid the CoA report on DepEd’s expenses, the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) said that the money should have been spent wisely if it was given to teachers in the form of salary increase.
“If we give the money for the welfare of our teachers, surely it will go to its intended use with a ‘return of investment’ in several folds,” said TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas.
Basas said that out of all the expenses in education, the government should have realized by now that teachers should be prioritized.
“Sa lahat ng gastusin sa edukasyon, teacher ang hindi dapat tinitipid dahil bawat pisong ibinibigay sa guro ay sulit na sulit,” he explained.
(They should increase the pay of teachers because every peso will be worth it.)
“Mahirap yatang maunawaan na nasasayang ang pondo ng DepEd sa mga error-filled books at iba pang gastusin pero hindi mabigyan ng nararapat na sahod ang mga guro,” he added.
(It is hard to understand how DepEd funds error-filled books but cannot fund salary increase for teachers.)
The TDC also noted that because of the lack of instructional materials and the technology-based instructions at present, teachers will have to spend more money for lesson preparation that needs internet connectivity, computer and printer.
“Teachers have to bear the expenses for these necessities,” he added.
In its 2018 report, CoA noted more than P 13 billion unexplained expenses of the DepEd.
“We give the DepEd and its concerned offices the benefit of the doubt and we expect explanation from them in relation to the COA findings,” Basas said.
“At the end of the proper procedure, if there are proven irregularities of neglect, both should be dealt with accordingly and those responsible should be held liable – that is the way the DepEd does it with erring rank-and-file employees and teachers,” he added.
For the longest time, TDC has been lobbying for P10,000 across the board increase for teachers and DepEd employees. However, the recent pronouncement from President Rodrigo Duterte during this fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July suggested that the increase is not what the teachers are expecting for.
“The president did not mention any amount, but he did give us hints that the increase will only be a continuation of the present scheme of salary standardization law (SLL), which for us is unfair and discriminatory especially for low level teachers who perform the actual daily tasks of classroom instruction,” Basas said.
Duterte, during his latest SONA, has ordered the Congress to provide the salary increase of government workers by crafting the next SSL which according to him will include teachers and nurses. The increase for teachers’ salaries under this, he said is “not too big but a little higher” than the previous one.
Basas noted that recently, the Malacanang – through Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo – said that the President would not renege on his promise to double the salary of public school teachers.
“We are not losing hope that President Duterte would still be willing to address this disparity, after all, this is a part of his promise,” he said. “Kahit hindi nga doblehin masaya na kami (He doesn’t need to double our salary), a P10,000 increase will be fine,” he added.
However, TDC lamented that there are only two SSL proposals filed in the Senate – the Senate Bill (SB) 49 authored by Senator Ralph Recto and the SB 200 by Senator Bong Go. Recto’s proposal would give a total of P6, 870 increase spread over three years, while Go’s counterpart would only give teachers a one-time increase of P591.00 by next year.
“Sadly, while there are several substantial proposals in both Houses of Congress, the Bong Go proposal seems to fit the description of the president- this is thru SSL, not too big and a little higher than the previous one,” Basas said.
TDC said that based on the latest adjustment under former president Noynoy Aquino’s Executive Order No. 201 or the SSL 4, the entry-level position of teachers received only P575.00 increase. The group expressed willingness to discuss teachers’ issues with Go and that they actually sent a formal letter asking for such.
“The COA report may find irregularities or mismanagement on the expenditure of some DepEd budget items, but most importantly it proves that there is money enough to finance the welfare of the most important factor in education system – our teachers,” Basas ended.
Meanwhile, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) also slammed DepEd and demanded for accountability for “imprudent utilization of education funds.”
In an earlier statement, ACT Chairperson Joselyn Martinez said that “for every peso that the DepEd expends irresponsibly, there are students and teachers who bear the brunt of this imprudence [and] this is plainly unacceptable and those responsible should be held liable for this.”
ACT lamented that teachers “have always been told that there are not enough funds—for classrooms, for books, for materials, for pay hike—and that we have to be forbearing and resourceful [but] the COA report now shows the hypocrisy in our situation”.
The group also reiterated its demand that government workers should have salary increases that will set the entry-level pay of Salary Grade 1 employees at no less than P16,000; Teacher I at P30,000; and Instructor I at P31,000 monthly.