THE 2,017 teachers in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) started receiving their accumulated back pays after years of waiting, an education official said Wednesday.

Secretary Baratocal Caudang of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Armm said his office has started releasing last week the back pays that reached P124 million.

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Caudang said the back pays released by his office are for the unpaid salaries of 2,017 school teachers from the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi.

Caudang said the beneficiaries include 1,106 elementary teachers, 292 secondary school teachers, and 619 provisionary teachers.

Acting Armm Governor Ansaruddin Adiong witnessed the release of the checks to the teachers assigned in Maguindanao in a ceremony held at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Center inside the Armm compound in Cotabato City.

Caudang said he and Armm executive secretary Naguib Sinarimbo distributed the checks to the teachers assigned in the province of Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Caudang said that upon his takeover of the education department a month ago, Adiong has issued him a "marching order to get rid the agency of irregularities" that have plagued the region's education department for years.

He said the release of unpaid salaries among teachers in the region is one of the immediate concerns being promptly addressed by DepEd-Armm.

Caudang said that upon his assumption as DepEd-Armm secretary, he has discovered the existence of a group of "fixers" composed of some employees and dismissed personnel of the department allegedly involved in duping teachers in claiming their salaries and other benefits.

"I am glad to announce that such group of fixers has been disbanded," Caudang said.

Caudang said he would pursue efforts in settling the decade-old misery of teachers on unremitted contributions to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) that now stand at about P300 million after addressing the problem on delayed payment of salaries.

The teachers in the region cannot avail of any loan from the GSIS for the past several years due to unremitted contributions, Caudang learned. (Bong Garcia)