PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER EDITORIAL (Thursday, November 20th, 2014)
No place at the table
The national budget for 2015 is up for deliberations and voting, and public school teachers are up in arms. As they should be. Despite the proposed P2.6-trillion tag, and even with the Department of Education getting the biggest slice (about P365 billion or 16 percent) of the pie, their dismal salaries are nailed at levels that studiously ignore inflation and other economic realities.
ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio bewails the fact that for the third time, the national budget has shut out the possibility of any salary increase for government workers, including teachers who are paid slave wages. According to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, the next round of salary increases is scheduled in 2016, or the year of the next presidential election. The timing may be suspicious, as teachers are often corralled into serving as election watchers, but Abad says the review of the compensation classification system will probably be finished by then.
However, as Tinio points out, such delays are a violation of the Salary Standardization Law of 2009, which mandates that the compensation system be assessed every three years to take into consideration the needs of the bureaucracy, as well as the possible erosion in purchasing power due to inflation.
It’s common knowledge that because of their measly wages, many teachers resort to various sidelines, hawking anything from food to lingerie to life insurance. Others regularly turn to loan sharks to make it from one payday to the next. Such frantic juggling of the means to keep body and soul together not only demeans the teachers but also distracts them from their most important role: molding the minds of our youth, the hope of the motherland. Indeed, how can they focus on the lesson plan, creatively introduce new concepts and ideas, or encourage questions from students that would develop in them critical thinking, when they must expend the necessary energy on equally critical concerns such as the next day’s meal, next week’s utility bills, next month’s rent, and their own children’s tuition?
Forced to grasp the knife’s edge, many teachers choose to join the ever-growing army of overseas Filipino workers who take on jobs that locals in other countries consider too dirty, difficult, or dangerous.
The government’s inaction on the teachers’ demand for a salary increase is also a violation of Republic Act No. 4670 or the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, which mandates that salaries provide teachers a reasonable standard of life for themselves and their families.
National officials may wring their hands and wail like conscientious housewives about how the source of funds must first be identified before items can be inserted into the budget. Yet they think nothing of how much time, money, training and skills are wasted every time a teacher abandons her college degree and years of classroom experience to wield broom and dustpan, raise and nurture children not her own, or risk maltreatment and abuse in other countries. And how much does the government cough up every time another OFW comes home in a coffin under suspicious circumstances?
Of late, economists have been trumpeting the Philippines’ increasingly favorable credit rating, its booming prospects in the contact center industry, the rosy business climate ahead. But when would they realize that all these are made possible by our human resources, industry leaders and workers amply prepared by the kind of education they’ve had? What would it take for our officials to realize that behind this success are the humble teachers, toiling in ill-equipped classrooms, forking out their own money for school supplies, and risking life and limb in remote areas to do their job? The same teachers who are paid wages that belittle their efforts and devalue their profession?
It’s a simple enough equation: Reasonable wages make for dedicated teachers who can concentrate on their classroom tasks and prepare their students better to become tomorrow’s movers and shakers. Ours is a young population, and what better way of ensuring that the youth are trained by the best minds and the best pool of teaching talent than by addressing this perennial problem?
The fact is that teachers have no place at the table. As one so aptly put it: “We deserve better salaries given the nature of our job and sacrifices for the Filipino youth. If the government sees us as the country’s heroes, they should give us our due.”
Ginoong Speaker, bumoboto ang ACT Teachers Party-List ng “No” sa badyet na ito.
Ang pera ng taumbayan ay dapat inilalaan sa kapakanan ng mamamayan at bansa sa kabuuan, subalit ang nilalaman ng House Bill 4968 ay mga anti-mamamayang polisiya ng mga nakaraan at kasalukuyang administrasyon na napatunayan nang nagsisilbi lamang sa nakakaangat na iilan. Ang prosesong pinadaanan ng HB 4968 ay nagpapakita ng layunin ng administrasyon na isentro sa iilang opisyal ang kapangyarihang desisyunan kung saan gagastusin ang pera ng bayan at itago sa mata ng publiko ang pagdadaanan at kauuwian ng kanilang bilyones na binayarang buwis.
Ginoong Speaker, tinatahak ng HB 4968 ang binabanderang “tuwid na daan”—daang diretso tungo sa mas malalim at malawakang kahirapan, sa kawalan ng trabaho, seguridad sa trabaho, at access sa mga batayang serbisyo para sa mamamayan, at sa mas pinabansot na pampublikong institusyon na taga-regulate sana sa mga pribadong sektor.
Ginoong Speaker, walang inaasahang pagtaas ng sahod ang mga empleyado ng pamahalaan, kahit malinaw ang mandato ng ating batas na magpanukala ang Pangulo ng pondo kada taon para sa awtomatikong pagtaas ng sweldo. Napatunayan sa ating pagtatalakay ng 2015 budget na ang tanging umaayaw sa pagtaas ng sahod ng mga kawani ay walang iba kung hindi ang Pangulo. Sa aspeto pa lamang ng pagtanggi ng Malakanyang na magpanukala ng pagtaas ng sahod ay malaki na ang kanyang utang sa 1.6 milyong kawani ng gubyerno, kabilang ang mahigit 700,000 na guro at non-teaching personnel sa mga pampublikong paaralan—P12.5 bilyon sa kabuuan sa darating na 2015 o P8,928.57 sa bawat kawani. Sa tatlong taon matapos ang implementasyon ng SSL3, may utang si Presidente na P30 bilyon, o P21,428.57 sa bawat kawani.
Minamaskara lamang ng nominal na pagtaas sa badyet ng mga ahensya dahil anumang pagtaas ay nakalaan para sa mga programang hindi makatunayan at direktang makakatugon sa mga pangangailangan ng mamamayan. Sa DepEd ay may P8.437 bilyon para sa GASTPE—mas malaki ng P300 milyon kaysa sa pondo ng kabuuang Support to Services kabilang ang Health and Nutrition Services, cash allowance, promosyon ng mga guro, at pagpapatitulo ng school sites. Sa DSWD ay may dagdag P64.7 bilyon para sa CCT, pagsunod lamang sa tahakin ng administrasyong Aquino ng pagpapalobo ng doleout—sa abereyds ng 70% o P13 bilyon kada taon—imbis na itatag ng sistemang panlipunang sinisiguro ang sapat na bilang ng trabaho at karampatang sahod. Sa DOH ay nagbigay ng mumong taas-badyet—5% para sa buong ahensya na mapupunta lamang sa ma-anomalyang PhilHealth at Health Facilities Enhancement Program, bagay na insulto sa harap ng 24% na pagkaltas ng pondo para sa mga pampublikong ospital.
Nagkalat sa DepEd, DOH, DPWH, DOTC, DOT, DA, at iba pang ahensya ang hindi bababa sa P57.2 bilyong siguradong pondo para sa infrastructure projects na ipauubaya sa mga pribadong kumpanya na bubusugin sa Public Private Partnership at mga kontratang titiyakin ang tubo sa halip na murang serbisyo.
Repleksyon ng maling prayoridad, at di tutugunan ng mapanlinlang na pagtaas na ito. Sa makatuwid, may utang din ang pamahalaang Aquino sa taumbayan sa pagkukulang nitong siguruhin ang murang serbisyo sa edukasyon, kalusugan, pabahay, transportasyon, at iba pa.
Mabigat ang mga utang na ito sa ating mamamayan lalo na sa harap ng dambuhalang pork na itinago sa mga pahina ng badyet na ito. Ginoong Speaker, di bababa sa P27.38 bilyon na congressional pork o nagbagong anyong PDAF at P958 bilyon na presidential pork o lump sum funds sa ilalim ng diskresyon ng pangulo. Ginoong Speaker, nagsayang tayo ng oras at rekurso ng bayan sa pag-dedeliberate at pag-aapruba ng badyet na ito—tila magiging panggatong lamang ang makakapal na librong ito para sa Ehekutibo dahil sa mga probisyon ditong maglelegalisa sa unconstitutional na pangungutingting ng Sangay Ehekutibo sa pambansang badyet gaya ng Disbursement Acceleration Program ni Aquino.
Malinaw, Ginoong Speaker, na may pondo para sa pork, at sa katunayan ay ang buong badyet ay magiging pork, pero wala para sa mga pangangailangan ng mamamayan.
Malinaw din na may pondo rin para sa pambayad utang—P789.8 bilyon na doble sa badyet para sa edukasyon.
Sa mga kadahilanang nabanggit, bumoboto ako ng “No” sa House Bill 4968. ###
On June 26, 2014, an article entitled “Has your congressman/woman signed up for your salary increase?” was published on the official website of ACT Teachers. The full text of the article read as follows:
Check the table below if your District Representative has signed as co-author of House Bill 245 or An Act Increasing the Minimum Monthly Salaries of Public School Teachers to Twenty Five Thousand Pesos (P25,000) and Non-Teaching Personnel to Fifteen Thousand Pesos (P15,000) filed by ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio L. Tinio.
This was followed by a table listing the names of district representatives and indicating with a “yes” or “no” whether or not they have co-authored HB 245.
The intention of the article was to urge teachers to lobby with districts representatives in order to get their support for HB 245 through co-authorship.
In early October, some four months after that article was posted, I got calls from a number of colleagues explaining that teachers in their district were making them account for voting against HB 245.
Clearly, there has been a misunderstanding. Somehow, the list on our website was erroneously interpreted by teachers not as a co-authorship list but as a list of those who voted for or against the bill. This is unfortunate because, firstly, no vote has taken place and secondly, the teachers’ demand for salary increase enjoys widespread support in Congress.
In response to this feedback, we immediately took down the post and issued a clarification on our website.
I sincerely regret that the manner of presentation of the information on our website may have inadvertently contributed to such a misunderstanding and apologize to colleagues in the House who have been unduly affected by this incident. ###
On 26 September 2014, the House of Representatives in plenary approved on third and final reading our House Bill 2970, An Act Increasing the Ceiling for the Total Exclusion from Gross Income of 13th Month Pay and Other Benefits to Seventy Thousand Pesos (P70,000), Amending for the Purpose Section 32(B)(7)(E) of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, as Amended.
HB 4970 seeks to exempt from income tax up to P70,000, from the current P30,000, 13th month pay and other benefits such as productivity incentives and Christmas bonus. It also mandates the Secretary of the Department of Finance to increase the P70,000 ceiling after a reviewing the effect of inflation rate on the amount at the end of the taxable year.
The bill awaits deliberation and approval by the Senate, then enactment into law upon signing by the President.
Click here for a copy of the engrossed bill.