Public school teachers—880,000 nationwide—would be correct to feel they have been taken for a ride.
Earlier this week, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the President wanted to double their salaries, just as he had doubled the salaries of soldiers and policemen.
"But judging by what he [President Duterte] wanted for the PNP and the AFP, it could be that he is also aiming to double the entry salary for teachers," Roque said.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno quickly pointed out, however, that no such thing was discussed during the Cabinet meeting.
As a result, Roque said he was speculating but denied he made a mistake. “My statement was 'I am not sure how much the increase ... judging from the military and police ... could be double. No mistake there since I said I do not know by how much and speculated only," he told reporters.
The spokesman’s speculation had a P337-billion price tag to it.
Any leader with a heart would want to improve the lot of public school teachers. For the nobility of their profession, the influence they wield over millions of children—who grow up to be builders of the community and the nation—and the lack of attention they seem to get in the national discourse, teachers deserve economic help.
Roque's act of raising their hopes and then taking his words back smacks of insensitivity. Spokesmen are supposed to tell things as they are. This is why there is Roque’s job exists in the first place—to offer clarity and structure, especially given the President’s temperament and tendency to utter things he would afterward qualify.
Who, then, would take Roque’s word again?
Speculation is not part of his job description. He should be reminded, from time to time, if there is one thing a presidential mouthpiece should not do, it is that he should not add to the uncertainty that most of us are already facing.