ACT TEACHERS PROFILE
Teachers: Marginalized and Oppressed Sector
Teachers are a marginalized and oppressed sector in the Philippines. They receive the lowest salaries among the ranks of professionals. They are exploited by their employers, whether in the public or private sectors, through long working hours and oversized classes, and are often deprived of benefits, even those that are mandated by law. For these reasons, a growing number of teachers are choosing to leave the teaching profession to work overseas as nannies, caregivers, and domestic helpers hoping to earn a better living for themselves and their families.
A majority of teachers, almost 80%, are to be found in elementary and secondary public schools as well as in state universities and colleges. The rest are employed in private schools. As a whole, almost 80% of teachers are female.
Teachers’ salaries are low and insufficient. For public school teachers, entry level wages begin at Php 14,198 per month. This is not enough for the daily needs of teachers’ families. Other than the fact that this pay is way too low, what teachers receive is even lower given deductions. The majority of teachers resort to taking out short-term loans from private lending institutions and loan sharks just to make ends meet from payday to payday.
Because of the education sector’s lack of support from government, the number of teachers is not enough to respond to the growing number of students. Instead of hiring more teachers, what happens is that teachers are given more subjects to teach, they use multi-grade teaching which requires teachers to do additional preparations. Working hours for teachers are stretched, which affects the quality of teaching as well as teachers’ health.
The regulation six hours of teaching is not followed, where the two hours may be used by teachers for class preparations, research and other activities for the betterment of their teaching’s quality. Classrooms are also limited in number, and books and other teaching materials are lacking.
Teachers are also forced to join government projects that they don’t fully believe in, and which uses their time and intelligence with no equivalent payment or which endangers their lives. An example of the latter is their being part of the census of citizens, involvement in elections, dancing at airports to welcome foreign guests, among others.
Female teachers have an additional burden. As women, they experience additional oppression, where the usual family situation requires that they take on the responsibility of maintaining a home and taking care of children, over and above their teaching jobs. Marriage also slows down the promotional process for female teachers, as they have fewer opportunities for professional growth. Some teachers also experience sexual abuse from higher officials when they try to apply for jobs, or follow-up on their salaries, or when they inquire about the status of their permanence or promotion in rank. Female teachers who get pregnant out of wedlock also don’t have maternity leaves even when they pay the GSIS and even when this privilege exists for women employees in the private sector.
Rationale for Establishing a Genuine Teachers’ Party-list
Faced with worsening pay and working conditions, the decline in the status of their profession, and the general deterioration of the educational system, teachers themselves responded by organizing themselves to collectively struggle for fundamental reforms. Such organizing efforts led to the founding of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in 1982. Currently, ACT is the largest organization of progressive teachers and employees in the education sector. Through the years, ACT engaged in the democratic processes to advance the rights and welfare of teachers and education personnel. Primarily using collective mobilizations such as dialogues with government officials, rallies, petition-signing and other tried and tested means of democratic expression, ACT accumulated many triumphs for the education sector. It led many successful campaigns to raise salaries of teachers, improve benefits and working conditions, and uphold their democratic rights. One of the key factors in those campaigns was the effective coordination of ACT with legislators who expressed support for teachers’ issues.
The Philippines is one of the few countries where representation of marginalized sectors in Congress is possible through the so-called party-list system. Compelled by the necessity of bringing the teachers’ struggles into new levels of successes and buoyed by the consistent triumphs of pioneer sectoral party-list organizations, leaders and members of ACT and other organizations saw the need to bring the struggle for far-reaching education reforms to the halls of Congress.
Realizing that many of the problems that beset the teachers’ sector may be properly addressed in Congress by advocating and sponsoring a teachers’ legislative agenda, key members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers saw it fit to initiate the establishment of a teachers’ party-list that shares the mission, vision, and goals of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers.
The establishment of ACT Teacher’s Party-list is the culmination of the collective endeavors of teachers who realized the need to achieve more democratic reforms for the education sector through direct participation in the legislative process. As teachers, members and prime movers of ACT Teacher’s Party-list are fully aware of their special role in shaping the future of the country. Such role will be further strengthened with the teachers’ principled entry into parliamentary politics.
On October 5, 2007 during the celebration of World Teachers Day, Alliance of Concerned Teachers national chairperson Antonio L. Tinio, Dr. Francis Gealogo and Dr Bienvenido Lumbera formally proposed to key teacher-leaders the formation of a teachers party-list which later became known as the ACT Teachers Party-list.
ACT Teachers Party-List was conceived as a sectoral party committed to the following ideals:
“to be the true voice of the country’s teachers and aware of our special role in shaping the minds and values of our children and youth, pledge to represent, assist and defend teachers and other education workers in advancing our vocation, economic welfare and democratic rights.”
ACT Teachers Party-List subscribes to the following principles:
- The children and youth have the right to an education that inculcates love of country, develops scientific thinking and is attuned to the needs of the majority of the people, especially the marginalized and underrepresented.
- Teachers have a major role in developing children and the youth into responsible, civic-minded and trustworthy members of society.
- Teachers have a right to decent salaries, favorable working conditions, and social security. They should be provided with school facilities sufficient for their teaching needs and with venues and opportunities to enrich their teaching competencies.
- The dynamic participation of teachers and other education workers in working for positive changes in our society in unity with other sectors of society should be encouraged and strengthened.
- Teachers have a critical role in shaping minds to respect human rights, advance equal rights for women and national minorities, protection of the environment, genuine agrarian reform, national industrialization and peace based on justice.
- Teachers and other education workers have the right to organize, form unions, join labor federations and enter into collective bargaining agreements and negotiations. After all efforts at conciliation fail, they have the right to strike.
- Teachers and other education workers need to venture out of the classroom and campus to initiate and support legislative and policy measures to reform the educational system, increase the budget for education, justly compensate and provide development programs for those in the public sector.
- Public school teachers are also the guardians of suffrage. We will strive for clean and honest elections and actively fight election fraud.
- Teachers and other education workers will unite with other sectors of Philippine society, especially the economically deprived, in the fight against graft and corruption, abuse of power, trampling on civil liberties and other obstacles to the people’s development. We will strive for responsible and effective governance.
Preparations were made to ensure the realization of the said proposal, series of meetings and consultations were held among teachers and education workers, a core group was designated to draft a Constitution and By-Laws and a founding assembly was scheduled.
The Founding Assembly
The ACT Teachers Party-List was founded on January 5, 2008. The founding assembly was held at 2nd Floor, Napoleon Pornasdoro Bldg. Quezon City. It was attended by 24 teachers, education worker and individuals supporting the clamor for establishing a genuine teachers’ Party-List.
The assembly approved its Constitution and By-Laws and General Platform in its National Council Meeting on April 1, 2009 and elected the following officials:
Chairperson : Dr. Bienvenido L. Lumbera
Vice Chairperson : Dr. Francis A. Gealogo
President : Antonio L. Tinio
Secretary General : April Valentin C. Montes
Treasurer : Maria Katrina S. Santiago
National Council Members : David M. San Juan
: Maria Teresa P. Tinio
: Mikko James dC. Rodriguez
: Neil L. Legaspi
: Zenaida S. Lao
: Atty. Gregorio T. Fabros
During the assembly, Mr. Tinio discussed the situation of the education sector, Mr. Montes discussed the need for teachers to form their own sectoral party that will truly represent the teachers’ interest and welfare, and Dr. Gealogo presented the Constitution and By-Laws and General Platform of ACT Teachers Party-List.
Profiles of Some Key Officials of ACT Teachers Party-List
Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera
Dr. Lumbera is a retired university professor who taught in the country’s leading universities. A renowned poet, playwright, and literary critic, he is a National Artist of the Philippines for Literature and a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communications. He has won numerous literary awards, including the National Book Awards from the National Book Foundation, and the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards. A former political detainee during Martial Law, Lumbera served as the National Chairperson of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) from 1995 to 1998.
Tinio is the current National Chairperson of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers. He has been serving in that capacity since 2002, and has worked as a full-time organizer of teachers since 1994. As the head of ACT, the country’s largest progressive organization of teachers, he is at the forefront of campaigns to uphold and defend the rights and welfare of teachers as well as the people’s right to education. Tinio is a part-time lecturer at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.
Dr. Francis A. Gealogo
Dr. Gealogo is an associate professor of history at the Ateneo de Manila University. He is an active member of CONTEND, a nationalist and progressive organization of activist teachers. He is also a founding member of the Paaralang Teresa Magbanua para sa Guro (PTMG), an institute that provides alternative and progressive education and training to public and private school teachers.
Legislative Agenda of ACT Teachers’ Party-list
True to its slogan as “The Genuine Voice of Teachers!” (“Ang Tunay na Tinig ng Teachers!”), the ACT Teachers’ Party-List supports and fights for three major points: first, the economic rights and welfare of teachers and educational staff; second, relevant reforms in the educational system; and third, good governance.
As a sectoral organization, ACT Teachers’ Party-list firmly believes that teachers and workers in the education sector can serve their country better if their rights and welfare are respected and protected. At the same time, it is committed to playing a leading role in upholding the people’s right to quality and relevant education for all. The necessary reforms can only be achieved through a government that is honest, efficient, sincere and responsive to the needs of the people. Thus, ACT Teachers’ Party-list also emphasizes the advocacy for good governance.
Fighting for the economic rights and welfare of teachers and educational staff: The ACT Teachers Party-List fights for the interests and demands of teachers and educational staff towards raising their wages and benefits, and the betterment of their teaching and working conditions.
· Upgrade teachers’ salaries to Salary Grade 15.
The current salary scale of a newly-hired public school teacher remains below government-declared decent living standards. Such a situation deprives teachers of just remuneration for their invaluable service to society and remains a major obstacle in the attainment of quality education in our schools. Successful enactment of legislation raising public school teachers’ salaries to Salary Grade 15 will go a long way toward addressing this issue.
· Remove the Claims and Loan Interdependency Program or CLIP of GSIS, among the other unjust practices of the said institution.
ACT Teachers Party-List shall employ all means available within the parliamentary arena to protect teachers and other government employees from the predatory and unjust policies of the GSIS under the administration of its current President and General Manager Winston Garcia.
· Demand transparency in the governance of fund agencies such as the GSIS, SSS, PhilHealth, Housing, among others.
The current international financial crisis greatly affected various investments made by government-managed fund agencies. Thus, many sectors have been raising the possibility that some of these fund agencies will eventually suffer huge financial losses and may even go bankrupt. Thus, transparency in the management of these funds becomes all the more compelling. This will enable key stakeholders to have a share of the right and responsibility to operate social security fund agencies to the maximum benefit of citizen-members. ACT Party-list will incorporate this principle in similar moves of other sectors to further advance the people’s freedom of information enshrined in the Constitution.
· Enforce the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers and enact a Magna Carta for Private School Teachers.
While the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers has been in force since 1966, many of its provisions are either violated or remain unenforced, thus proving the need to monitor its strict implementation. ACT Teachers Party-List will employ the oversight function of Congress for this purpose. Meanwhile, a proposed Magna Carta for Private School Teachers has been languishing in legislative archives for so long due to the lack of ample support from legislators and aggressive opposition by private school owners. The entry of a genuine teacher’s party-list in Congress will help accelerate the passage and shepherd the eventual implementation of such a Magna Carta for teachers and employees in the private education sector.
· Reserve sufficient amount of funds for the benefits of teachers and educational staff, and regularly fulfill its disbursement.
Public school teachers are regularly deprived of the full enjoyment of benefits guaranteed by law and government policies and enjoyed by government employees in other agencies of government due to the lack of sufficient funds generated from the savings of the Department of Education. ACT Teachers Party-List will seek remedies to this problem by fighting for sufficient allocation of funds to cover the benefits of teachers and employees in education.
· Advance the right to form unions in the educational sector.
Though the Constitution guarantees the rights of workers, including teachers, to form unions, countless instances in both private and public schools will prove that this right is far from being freely and fully exercised by teachers and employees in the education sector. In the public sector, the legal framework for public sector unionism provided by Executive Order 180 (1987) itself imposes significant obstacles to the formation of public school teachers’ unions. Furthermore, while the right to strike is likewise recognized by the Constitution, existing jurisprudence deprives teachers and other public sector workers of this right. Additionally, teacher organizations and their members experience harassment and outright violation of human rights. ACT Teachers’ Party-List will push for legislation that will guarantee teachers and education workers the full enjoyment of their trade union rights.
Relevant reforms in the educational system: The ACT Teachers Party-List supports the development of quality but affordable education, especially for the poor, which strengthens the nationalistic aspirations of the people and the spirit of service.
· A higher educational budget – 6% of the GDP must be allocated for education to immediately fill the current shortages in operations, personnel, logistics, rooms, books, supplies, among others.
Despite government claims that educational deficiencies have been eliminated in the past few years, grassroots realities prove that these are merely empty boasts. There have been perennial shortages in operations, personnel, logistics, rooms, books, supplies etc. since time immemorial. Comfort rooms, corridors, gymnasiums, stairways and other unlikely areas/facilities have been utilized as classrooms in some areas. The dismal teacher-student ratio in many areas results to equally dismal academic results. The first step to minimize or eliminate these deficiencies is through providing sufficient funds for the education sector. UNESCO has pegged 6% of the GDP as the minimum yearly budgetary allocation for a high-quality education system in every country. Unfortunately, the Philippines is yet to follow this standard, allocating approximately 3%. Instead, the lion’s share of our national budget always goes to debt payments. ACT Teachers Party-List will fight to ensure the realization of the Constitutional mandate to make education the number one priority in the national budget.
· Free and accessible elementary and high school education, and affordable college education.
The Constitution mandates a free and accessible elementary and high school education and an affordable college education. Indeed, this is part of the Education For All (EFA) goals set by the United Nations. In her most recent SONA, the president herself admitted that the country will not be able to promptly meet these goals. Thus, there’s a compelling need to improve the country’s capability to realize this important goal. With cohort survival and drop-out rates annually deteriorating, legislative remedies aimed at achieving EFA goals must be prioritized. In the short run, affordable college education is also a priority. It is a known fact that college education harnesses the full potentials of talented individuals. Lack of college of education not only deprives the youth of their basic right but also deprives the society of huge unrealized potentials that can help propel the country to progress.
· Push for the use of Filipino and the local languages, as well as the use of native pedagogy, in schools.
Countless studies conducted by esteemed researchers worldwide, funded by the United Nations have time and again arrived at something very obvious: that one’s native language is the best medium of instruction in all subjects and levels of education. In fact, experts in language pedagogy insist that the success of second language acquisition is basically dependent on the mastery of one’s mother language. Thus, in the Philippine context, the use of Filipino and the local languages should be promoted. A cursory look at the most prosperous nations in all continents will produce the fact that economic development is tied with a country’s over-all work efficiency due to a well-developed common language shared by both top managers, mid-level administrators and workers. The economic success of Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Japan, China, Germany and Russia are just some of the many examples of the inherent efficiency of mother language pedagogy.
· Return Filipino values, history, literature and social sciences as subjects in basic education.
Economic development is impossible without the formation of a national and nationalist consciousness among citizens. The return of Filipino values, history, literature and social sciences as subjects in basic education will certainly help in the over-all endeavor to inculcate a national and nationalist consciousness among our citizens. Citizens who have love and affection for their country will expectedly be more willing to sacrifice much effort, skills and talents for national progress. Thus, nationalism in education will eventually contribute to the realization of economic progress.
Good governance: ACT Teachers Party-list supports good governance, and puts the interests of the majority of Filipinos at the forefront versus that of the minority and the foreign.
· Fight anomaly and corruption in government.
Local and international reports have cited the existence and prevalence of wholesale graft and corruption in the country as among the primary reasons of our poverty. Rampant corruption dries up the nation’s coffers, depriving the people of funds for basic social services such as health care, housing and education. Only an honest and clean government can bring progress to our nation. Thus, the struggle for good governance is an essential advocacy. ACT Teachers Party-List shall be active as a watchdog against corruption in government.
· Prioritize social services such as education.
The Constitution explicitly states that the highest budgetary allocation should always go to education, a mandate that has never been fulfilled due to the huge debt payments made by successive governments to our foreign creditors. Meanwhile, despite the spirit of the Constitution which always emphasizes the importance of social services, funds for these are always insufficient. This irregularity must not be only exposed but should be also immediately reversed for the sake of all Filipinos. ACT Teachers’ Party-List advocates a national budget that prioritizes education and other social services.#