Filipino teachers hold protest as presidential promise of salary increase remains unfulfilled

‘Honor our teachers’ reads the slogan used during a fitness exercise event highlighting demands made by public school teachers for salary increase. Source: Facebook page of QCPSTA, used with permission.

Thousands of public school teachers marched on 4 October 2019 in the Philippines to demand the granting of a ‘substantial’ salary increase for themselves as well as for other government workers, in reference to a promise made by their government. The rally was held on the eve of World Teachers’ Day to highlight the plight of Filipino educators.

According to the Department of Education (DepEd), there are more than 800,000 public elementary and high school teachers in the Philippines. Almost 90 percent of them receive a monthly salary of 20,000 pesos (US$ 387). The monthly minimum wage prescribed by the government different types of employment ranges from US$ 287 to 308.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers, a leading organization in the movement, is requesting a basic salary of 30,000 pesos (US$ 580) for entry-level public school teachers. It also reminded President Rodrigo Duterte of his 2016 campaign pledge to raise the pay of public school teachers.

While it may seem significant, a 30,000 pesos basic salary would still remain below the 42,000 pesos (US$ 809 US) monthly cost of living that is based on a calculation made by the government's Socioeconomic Planning secretary in 2018.

Contend, a group of activist educators, explains why one of the protests was organized by public teachers near the presidential palace:

It is now more than three years that Duterte is the President and still the promise of salary increase for teachers is illusive. Today, teachers are burdened with many required paper works, saddled with extra-school works, burn out by extended school hours and assignments, and are wallowing in misery of financial deprivation.

Veteran journalist and activist Satur Ocampo enumerates the extra work performed by many teachers:

…they act as clerks, property custodians, guidance counselors, nurses, librarians, or maintenance staff. There are tasks for the Department of Health (DoH): taking the students’ health data, facilitating the DoH deworming program, assisting in vaccination campaigns. For the Department of Social Welfare and Development, they handle feeding programs in their schools and monitor students belonging to family-beneficiaries of the 4Ps [cash assistance] program. For all this work they receive no additional compensation.

‘Books not bullets’ was one of the slogans in the protest organized by public school teachers to demand the rechanneling of military and police intelligence funds to education and other social services. Source: Facebook page of Alliance of Concerned Teachers, used with permission.

Teachers and their supporters used the Twitter hashtag #TuparinAngPangako (#FulfillThePromise) during the protest.

At the end of the protest program, the teachers formed a ‘30K’ human formation to symbolize the demand for a 30,000 pesos basic salary.

'30K’ human formation symbolizing the demand for a 30,000 pesos basic salary for entry-level public school teachers. Source: Kodao Productions, a content partner of Global Voices

Insufficient government response

So far, the Filipino government has taken small measures to appease the teachers, short of a permanent salary increase: in July 2019, Duterte announced his government was looking into a solution to slightly raise the salary of teachers. Just a week before World Teachers’ Day, the Philippine senate passed a resolution honoring the work of teachers. Finally, the Department of Education announced public teachers would receive an incentive pay on World Teachers’ Day. But ioffering an extra 1,000 pesos is unlikely to stop demonstrators from protesting further.

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