DepEd seeks partner lawyers to help teachers avoid debt, unfair lenders

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
DepEd seeks partner lawyers to help teachers avoid debt, unfair lenders
Students filled the grounds of the Concepcion Elementary School in Marikina City during the first day of in-person classes on Monday (August 22, 2022).
Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Education is working to provide teachers looking to borrow money legal advice to protect them from falling deep into debt.

Vice President Sara Duterte, who is also education secretary, said in a speech on Monday that the agency has been coordinating with lawyer groups and looking for partners to provide teachers with free consultations on loan contracts they might sign.

"It’s important that you (teachers) understand the contracts you sign," Duterte said in Filipino at an event in Kalinga. She said having a lawyer explain the terms of a loan will help guide teachers before they take loans out.

“We’re speaking and looking for partners nationwide so that our teachers can have somewhere to go to consult the (contracts) they sign,” Duterte added.

Duterte earlier issued a memorandum banning private lenders and "loan sharks" not connected with DepEd from collecting payments at designated payout sites of the one-time service recognition incentive for public school teachers and non-teaching personnel. 

The memorandum also ordered DepEd officials to call the police when necessary to implement the rule.

Ballooning GSIS debt 

Public school teachers and even non-teaching personnel have long struggled to pay their outstanding debt to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) — a government financial institution that state workers have run to over the years out of financial need.

Before the pandemic in 2019, teachers owed GSIS at least P157.4 billion in outstanding loans and accrued interest, according to DepEd. 

Duterte said that DepEd has been coordinating with the GSIS to address teachers’ long-standing concerns.

"They have acknowledged our demands, and we have told them that we should hold a monthly meeting to fix the accounts of our teaching and non-teaching personnel at DepEd," Duterte added.   

The education secretary also said that the agency is reviewing the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers and discussing its possible revisions with members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. 

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