A GROUP of teachers in Northern Mindanao Region said they were hurt and disappointed over Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno's statements saying increasing teachers' salary is not a government priority.
Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) chairperson for Northern Mindanao Ophelia Tabacon said they were happy that President Rodrigo Duterte announced his plans to increase the salary, but their happiness was "cut short" with the Budget official's statement.
"The call to increase our salary has been a long-overdue call. How can they say that we are not a priority when in fact teachers are frontliners and sometimes we become channels of different government programs," she said.
Duterte has ordered the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to find a way to double the teachers' salaries, but Diokno said this move would cost the government P1 trillion. He also said the government's priority is "Build, Build, Build" social protection, and taking care of the poor.
Tabacon also said the government was quick to glamorize the newly-approved tax reform law, which increased rates on fuel, cars and sugar-sweetened drinks but reduced personal income tax, thus higher take-home pay for teachers.
But Tabacon said the increased take home pay is different from the actual increased amount of their salaries.
"Gipalabas nila nga swerte ang matutudlo kay mudako ang take home pay (They made it appear that we were lucky because our take home pay will increase), pero wala mi nalipay ani kay amoa man ng regular nga sweldo nga gibalik lang sa amo, dili kana mao ang among gipangayo (but we are not happy with this because this is not what we are asking for)," she said.
"Bisan dako ang among sweldo, nitaas man pud kaayo ang palaliton, so gibawi lang (Although our take home pay increased, the prices basic commodities also increased, so it's basically the same)," she added.
She said teachers nowadays have to look for ways to ramp up their method of teaching, and they do this through spending their own money, saying P3,500 chalk allowance is not enough to buy computers, television, and internet.
Tabacon said one proof that a teacher’s salary does not suffice to the actual need, is for teachers themselves resorting to massive loans.
A teacher who refused to be named said, it is impossible to build his now two-storey house without loaning money.
"And it's almost the same case for every teacher in our school," he said.
Increasing pay for teachers, police, and soldiers was the campaign promise of Duterte.
Last January 1, Duterte signed Joint Resolution No. 1 increasing the base pay, allowances, benefits, and incentives of all members of the military, police, and other uniformed personnel in government.
Tabacon said they are set to stage a rally to continue the call to increase salaries of teachers.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 13, 2018.