The Palace statement this week that the President is working on his three-year-old promise to raise salaries for public school teachers fell a little short of being reassuring.
In making the statement, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo would not say how soon teachers can expect the increase, offering only that the Finance and Budget secretaries were looking for the wherewithal to fund the pay hikes.
“Let’s see how it goes,” the President’s spokesman said, hardly inspiring any confidence.
Panelo said the three-year delay in raising teachers' salaries does not mean the President is giving up on his promise.
"The President is not reneging on his commitment… You must remember that the mother of the President was a teacher and, so his heart is with the teachers," he said.
The Palace statements come in the wake of a call by ACT Teachers Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro for the President to make good on his campaign promise to institute a “substantial” salary increase for public school teachers and other government employees.
Tinio said Duterte “has promised multiple times” that the salaries of public school teachers would be increased after hiking the salaries of uniformed personnel.
“It is high time that the Duterte administration fulfills [its] promise to increase the salaries of teachers to compensate for the continuing price increases of basic goods and services. Teachers are merely asking for a salary increase that would provide their families decent lives,” he said.
Castro echoed Tinio's appeal, saying the President should "wake Congress up” and make the salary increase a top legislative priority, instead of making another promise.
ACT added that teaching is no longer a viable profession in terms of providing for a family, as Teacher 1’s 2019 salary of P20,754 and Teacher 2’s P22,938 fall short of the Family Living Wage of P23,660—the barest minimum according to independent think tank Ibon Foundation.
In fact, in June last year, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia acknowledged that a family of five would need an aggregate income of P42,000 to live above the poverty line.
This, he added, was based on the assumption that a household has two family members earning P21,000 each per month.
Against this grim economic backdrop, one can hardly fault the teachers for clamoring for what the President promised them three years ago.
With all due respect to the Palace, “let’s see” just won’t cut it, nor will general statements about where the President’s heart truly lies.
The President may have bit off more than he could chew when he announced at the start of his term that he would rid the country of crime and corruption in three months. That deadline has long come and gone. Now he needs to show the teachers he can, after all, keep a promise—even if it takes him half his term to do it.