Thousands of public schoolteachers might go on leave should the Duterte administration walk back on its promise to increase their salaries, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) warned on Friday.
Benjamin Valbuena, ACT national chair, said the government faced more protests if it failed to adjust the salaries of the country’s more than 600,000 public schoolteachers.
Valbuena said the increase was necessary, especially with the expected rise in the prices of basic commodities due to the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act.
The group issued the warning two days after Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the salary increase of teachers might have to take a back seat to the administration’s more pressing projects.
On Friday, ACT staged a protest at the Department of Budget and Management office in Manila to denounce Diokno’s statement and to call for his resignation.
Liberal Party (LP) senators also called out Diokno for slamming the door on the salary increase of teachers, describing his statement as “insensitive and heartless.”
The senators said that if the budget department was able to find funds to double the pay of military and uniformed personnel, there was no reason why it could not do so for teachers.
“It’s not certainly the way to treat our public schoolteachers, who have been seeking government’s help for higher salaries and additional benefits so they can live decently,” LP president Sen. Francis Pangilinan said in a statement on Friday.
Minority Leader Sen. Franklin Drilon also said there was no reason for Diokno to “whine” about the cost of increasing teachers’ pay since it was able to produce funds for the pay hike of uniformed personnel.
“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. Investments in the country’s human resources, especially our teachers, can never go wrong,” said Drilon.
On Tuesday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced that Mr. Duterte might double the salary of teachers. But he corrected himself on Thursday, saying that teachers’ salaries might rise but would not be doubled.