Budget chief backtracks, confirms tutors’ pay hike

AMID a backlash over his remarks, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Friday that public school teachers would get pay hikes soon, but not double of what they are earning, unlike soldiers and police.

“Salary increase yes, doubling no,” Diokno told radio dzMM.

Diokno earlier brushed off talk about President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for a pay hike for teachers, saying the priority was the government’s massive “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.

He also said giving public school teachers a massive pay hike would “upset the country’s macroeconomic fundamentals.”

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, however, in a news briefing at Valencia City, said that Diokno got the “wrong information” when he was asked if the salary of teachers would be doubled.

On Thursday, Roque said he was merely speculating when he said the President wanted to double the salaries of public school teachers, because that was what he did for soldiers and the police.

“But Secretary Diokno says this cannot be done. So be it. But the mandate of the President is to find ways to raise the salaries of teachers,” Roque said.

Liberal Party senators branded as “heartless and insensitive” Diokno’s statement that raising the pay for teachers was not a priority at this time.

WAGE PROTEST. Members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers lie on the street in front of the Department of Budget and Management offices on Friday to demand salary increases for all public school teachers in the country, despite Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno's recent statements to the contrary. Norman Cruz
“It’s certainly not the way to treat our public school teachers, who have been seeking the government’s help for higher salaries and additional benefits so that they can live decently,” said the party’s president Senator Francis Pangilinan.

Pangilinan said the recent doubling of the salaries of the military and police was a positive sign that a similar initiative for adjusting the pay of teachers would get under way.

“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 cannot be overlooked,” said Pangilinan, whose mother is a retired teacher.

Senate Minority Franklin Drilon, also LP vice president, pointed out that the Department of Budget and Management was able to find funds for the salary hike of military and uniformed personnel, and there was no reason for its secretary to whine about the cost of increasing the pay of public school teachers.

“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,” Drilon said.

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said that while teachers may not bear arms or engage in dangerous missions, they give the same dedication and hard work to educate their students.

“They have legitimate demands and are not shielded from the impact of higher prices of goods and services, especially with the TRAIN law in place,” Aquino said, referring to the administration’s tax reform packages that raised taxes on most commodities.

“Like the policemen and soldiers, they also used gasoline, buy foods and spend for other goods which increased due to the TRAIN law,” said Aquino.

Also on Friday, Diokno said they are trying to find a permanent solution to the suspended retirement fund of soldiers and policemen this year so that payments can resume by January 2019.

Topics: Pay hike , wage protest
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