ACT National Chairperson Joselyn Martinez (left) dares DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones to a public debate on salary increase

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) issued today a challenge to Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones for a debate, to be witnessed by public school teachers, regarding the issue of salary increase. ACT said that teachers are ‘fed up’ with the education chief’s ‘distortion of facts, malicious innuendos and endless alibis to dissuade the clamor for substantial pay hike for teachers.’ 

“Sec. Briones is relentless in crusading against teachers’ pay hike, lately speaking before a conference of private school owners and giving media interviews in a bid to invalidate the bases of our just demand for better pay. Why don’t she tell these things in front of us teachers and give us the equal opportunity to refute her claims and prove her wrong?” said Joselyn Martinez, ACT National Chairperson. 

Clarifying ‘special benefits’
Martinez cited Briones’ claim caught in a media interview that teachers receive allowances from local governments of about five to six figures as ‘the latest fabrication of the secretary to make it appear that teachers enjoy many perks, thus are not urgently in need of salary increase.’ 

“The fact is, only a minority of public school teachers get allowances from local governments, usually those in cities can afford such and at varying amounts, but its yearly sum would surely not exceed 15% of the teachers’ annual salaries,” stated Martinez. 

Martinez hit Briones as well for mentioning ‘summer vacation leaves’ as one of the ‘exclusive benefits of teachers.’ 

“The secretary is not being precise. The truth is teachers are the only government employees who are not entitled to sick leave. If we’re absent, our salary will be deducted, or we can off-set it with advance labor that we have rendered. We have no regular salaries during summer vacation. What we get is the proportional vacation pay, which we earn by diligently completing the school days. The summer pay would even be deducted if we have absences during school days,” explained Martinez. 

Martinez also bared that many deserving teachers were unable to avail of the special hardship allowance as DepEd made the guidelines so stringent that only those who cross mountains and rivers to get to schools were qualified. She cited as well that the ceiling cost set on hardship allowance is not even enough to cover the transportation expenses of teachers who teach in the most remote areas. 

Double standard 
Martinez called attention to Sec. Briones’ ‘defensiveness’ when her compensation was being scrutinized by the public. 

“The Secretary is being extra astute in differentiating salaries, allowances and actual expenses when her compensation is being examined but indiscriminately lumps everything together when teachers’ compensation is being discussed. This is a clear application of double standards to avert attention from the excessive pay of high officials and project that teachers’ compensation is larger than what it really is,” pointed Martinez. 

DepEd earlier released a computation of Teacher I compensation amounting to Php30,873 monthly. The sum was derived by adding up the monthly salaries and all annual benefits, including those that are deducted for specific expenses like the clothing and chalk allowance, as well as the government counterpart contributions to GSIS, Philhealth, and PagIbig which do not pass through teachers’ hands. 

Martinez said that the wide gap between salaries of teachers and other rank-and-file government employees on one hand, and the realistic computation of cost of living at present on the other, is enough basis to warrant the grant of substantial salary increase. 

ACT prepares for the mobilization of a large contingent of teachers to rally on Pres. Duterte’s State of the Nation Address on July 22 to call for the fulfillment of the president’s promise of raising teachers’ pay.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Philippines is a progressive, militant and nationalist organization of teachers, academic non-teaching personnel and non-academic non-teaching personnel established in June 26, 1982. It is the largest non-traditional teachers’ organization in the country which works for the economic and political well-being of teachers and all other education workers as well as for genuine social transformation.