Palace: Pay increase for teachers up to Congress

Aurea Calica - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang asked yesterday public school teachers demanding a salary increase to consider the welfare of students before holding protest actions.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said teachers’ concerns are being looked into, but that government employees, including teachers, would need a law from Congress for any pay increase.

Lacierda said the government’s concern for improving salaries is not limited to teachers.

“When you’re speaking of government employees, which include teachers, we require a Salary Standardization Law from Congress and this should be best addressed with the legislative branch,” he said. “We are in the last tranche of the Salary Standardization (Law), and therefore, there have been calls for wage increase. But then we would have to defer to the legislature to act on that proposal.”

Lacierda said they would still have to look at the numbers once a proposal is made.

“At the end of the day, it boils down to how much they were proposing, how it would impact on the national budget and what the sources of revenue for the increase would be,” he said.

Lacierda said an issue on constitutionally might crop up if there would be unjust classification.

“Why only teachers?” he said. “So the first law on salary standardization, it covered all. We are under a government of laws and not of men. So all this would have to be decided based on how the law, how we view the law, how the law is proposed, and how it benefits the entire class of people affected.”

All concerns of the education sector are being addressed and it continues to receive the biggest budget allocation each year, Lacierda said.

Protesters led by Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) are demanding that their minimum monthly salary of P18,549 be increased to P25,000 and from P9,000 to P15, 000 for non-teaching personnel.

ACT national chairman Benjie Valbuena warned they would take a mass leave if their demands are not granted.
Aside from salary increase, they would also ask the Department Education (DepEd) and President Aquino to immediately resolve the shortage of teachers, classrooms, chairs, facilities, books and other instructional materials by increasing the budgetary allocation for education, Valbuena said.

Disaster-resilient classrooms

Malacañang said yesterday more time is needed to build disaster-resilient classrooms in areas that Super Typhoon Yolanda had devastated.

However, Lacierda said they are expecting the construction to be completed soon.

“The designs would have to be done to ensure they are resilient and I think that took some time... it was only for the concern (of) making sure that... if the same event would happen again, our schools will be spared... These are the birth pangs of making sure (there’s) resiliency when it comes to structures, when it comes to buildings, when it comes to schools,” he said.

Lacierda said the concern for more disaster-resilient buildings was one of the factors that caused the delay.

“In the meantime... the students will be studying in structures which are not yet resilient, but we hope for their understanding,” he said. “We will go as fast as we can expedite it... to the full extent of how the law permits.”

Education Secretary Armin Luistro said they have made sure students would not attend classes under a mango tree, but in temporary learning spaces, either tents or structures made of wood and corrugated sheets.

Despite the woes, yesterday’s school opening was generally peaceful and orderly, he added.

The disaster had brought out the “innovativeness” of teachers to ensure that quality education was maintained while a permanent solution was being worked out, he was quoted as saying.

Lacierda said 18,500 policemen have been deployed at more than 7,400 police assistance desks nationwide to assist and maintain order during the opening of classes.

“This is over and above the regular mobile and foot patrols that will be likewise focused on the different schools and campuses,” he said. “The PNP had earlier set the operational guidelines and procedures to ensure a safe, secure and peaceful opening of classes up to the succeeding weeks.”

Classroom backlogs in 2010 had been addressed, but the growing student population, natural wear and tear, as well as the disasters have caused shortages, Lacierda said.

More than 20 million students returned to public and private schools yesterday.

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