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MANILA, Philippines – A progressive teachers’ group gave a negative assessment of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s first year in office, saying education woes under his leadership were inadequately addressed.
ACT Teachers presented on Monday, June 26, a progress report card for Marcos and Vice President Sara Duterte, with a final remark that read “for immediate remediation.”
The group said multiple issues concerning teachers and students were not prioritized, including the safe reopening of schools, boosting the budget for the education sector, providing sufficient learning and teaching resources, and overhauling the K to 12 curriculum, among others.
The Philippines was among the last countries in the world to fully reopen public schools since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s a concrete basis as to why we gave the administration a failing grade. The budget allotted for education remains insufficient, there remains a shortage in the number of classrooms, facilities, teachers and school personnel because of the government’s unpreparedness to return to face-to-face classes,” said ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio.
When Marcos ran for president, he vowed to increase teachers’ salary, but that promise remains unfulfilled.
The group shared that many private school teachers in Metro Manila are earning only around P15,000 to P18,000 per month. In worse situations outside the metropolis, monthly wage could go as low as P6,000.
Private school teachers also don’t earn during school vacations, so they acquire other jobs to make ends meet, according to the group.
ACT Teachers also renewed its call for better benefits for teachers.
“A turtle is in a better situation because it moves even if it’s slow. But our calls for sick leave benefits, payment for 77 days’ worth of overtime, and P3,000 adjustment allowance remain stuck,” said ACT Philippines chairperson Vladimer Quetua.
ACT Teachers also called out the administration for “gravely violating” academic freedom and union rights.
This came in the wake of a Department of Education (DepEd) memorandum that requested lower officials to submit a “complete list” of teachers affiliated with ACT Teachers who were availing of the department’s Automatic Payroll Deduction System.
The group flagged the memo as an attempt to profile teachers affiliated with ACT Teachers, but DepEd claimed that it did not single out the progressive organization since memorandums pertaining to other union groups were also issued.
Vice President and Education Secretary Duterte has had a public word war with ACT Teachers since she assumed office, red-tagging the group and accusing members of embracing “useless ideologies” espoused by communist insurgents.
“The P150 million in confidential funds allotted to DepEd may be used to profile and red-tag members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers,” ACT Teachers Representative and House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro claimed.
Political analysts and critics of the Vice President have described Duterte’s red-tagging spree as counterproductive to DepEd’s goals.
Makabayan, the left-leaning House bloc of which Castro is a part of, has also repeatedly insisted they are not members of the communist front, and has condemned all forms of human rights violation, whether committed by government or communist forces. – with reports from John Carlo Magallon/Rappler.com
John Carlo Magallon is a Rappler intern.