Liberal Party senators also slammed Diokno’s response, saying it was heartless and insensitive for failing to recognize teachers as an important sector of society, just like the police and soldiers who were granted significant pay increases this year. Krizjohn Rosales, File

Benjamin Diokno’s resignation sought over teachers’ pay hike
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2018 - 12:01am

MANILA, Philippines —  Calls for the resignation of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno continue to mount following his statement that the increase in the salary of public school teachers is not a priority of the government.

Members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) yesterday held a die-in protest in front of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) office in Manila to condemn Diokno’s response to the proposed pay hike for teachers.

They also slammed the secretary for supposedly misinforming the public about the teachers’ basic salary by creating an impression that they are already well-compensated.

“If the government was able to raise the salary of the police and the military through a joint resolution of the House and the Senate, why can’t they do it for teachers and other government employees,” the organization said in Filipino.

“If they are really serious in addressing calls of the teachers and other workers for pay increase, there are many ways to find fund sources from the government’s budget,” it added.

ACT party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio on Thursday said Diokno should consider resigning from his post if he would not be able to comply with the directive of President Duterte to find ways to double the salary of public school teachers.

Tinio’s fellow party-list representative, France Castro, also dubbed Diokno as teachers’ public enemy number one over his statement that increasing the salary of teachers could wait since they are still covered by a previous wage hike law.

Liberal Party senators also slammed Diokno’s response, saying it was heartless and insensitive for failing to recognize teachers as an important sector of society, just like the police and soldiers who were granted significant pay increases this year.

“It’s certainly not the way to treat our public school teachers, who have been seeking government’s help for higher salaries and additional benefits so that they can live decently,” said LP president, Sen. Francis Pangilinan.  

“Beyond their traditional mission in the classrooms, teachers are mentors and influencers of the youth and of the community. Their critical role in nation-building could not be overlooked,” he said.

Like Pangilinan, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon pointed out that the DBM was able to find funds for the salary hike of military and uniformed personnel (MUP), so there should be no reason it could not come up with the necessary funding for the increase in teachers’ pay.

“Instead of slamming the doors on the plea of the teachers, Secretary Diokno should use his wise judgment and skills to find the funds and put money where it is most needed,” Drilon said. 

“Investments on the country’s human resources, especially our teachers, can never go wrong,” he added.

Drilon recently pushed for an increase in the salaries of teachers and other professionals in government service in response to the pay hike granted to the MUP.

He said there should not be any discrepancy in the salaries of people in government service.

Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said that teachers are just as dedicated as the police and military in their profession.

“They have legitimate demands and are not shielded from the impact of higher prices of goods and services, especially with the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) Law in place,” Aquino said.  

“And just like the soldiers and the police, they also use gas, they buy food and have other expenses, all of which have gone up because of the TRAIN law,” he added.

The budget secretary noted that doubling the salary of public school teachers would cost the government over P500 billion per year.

But according to ACT, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs have around P500 billion to P600 billion of uncollected taxes that can be used to fund the proposed pay hike.

They also recommended the rechanneling of the supposed hidden pork barrel funds and the government allocation for the war on drugs and other armed conflicts.

“The promised pay hike should not be sourced from new tax impositions. The government only needs to efficiently implement its tax collection to make the increase possible,”  Castro said.

“The enacted pork-ridden 2018 budget will continue to fund the administration’s war on drugs and the continuing martial law in Mindanao. Rechanneling pork and funds for war could have provided for our government personnel’s pay hike,” she added.

Members of the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) will also hold a protest at DBM on Monday to denounce Diokno.

“The DBM should study the proposal for a P10,000 wage increase that was promised by President Duterte during the campaign,” said the group in Filipino.

“While we feel bad (over his remark), we are ready to meet with Diokno to discuss the matter,” the TDC added.

No to pay hike

But private schools are opposing plans to double the salary of public school teachers in the country, saying this would further widen the pay gap between those teaching in government and in private education institutions.

Eleazardo Kasilag, president of the Federation of Associations of Private Schools Administrators, said private school administrators heaved a sigh of relief after Diokno thumbed down the idea. – Marvin Sy

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