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« on: December 05, 2017, 06:06:05 PM »

Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, and fellow Filipinos:

I rise today on a matter of personal and collective privilege to address an issue concerning not only this representation, but also hundreds of thousands of our public-school teachers. Personal because it concerns teachers personally known to me, as well as supporters of KABAYAN Party-list. Collective in the sense that these teachers are our second parents. Without them, none of us, I suppose, would be here. None of us would have become what we are today. None of us would have been in a position to effect real and meaningful change in our country’s policies.

Mr. Speaker, according to the Department of Education (DepEd), the current gross salary of our public-school teachers is around P 19,000.00. However, they take home far less from the gross amount due to unfortunate and unforeseen financial troubles. Our teachers are saddled by extensive deductions for contributions and obligations as they are forced to fall victim and borrow money from lenders that entrap them in a vicious cycle of indebtedness.

According to DepEd data, the current total debt of public school teachers from legitimate private lending instiutions have ballooned to unprecedented levels amounting to P178-billion, aside from the already existing P123-billion worth of loans owned to GSIS. This amounts to P301-billion worth of loans, equivalent to 55% of the 2018 DepEd proposed budget of P549-billion.  In fact, it came to the attention of this representation that around 23,000 teacher-retirees this year failed to receive their pensions due to unpaid debts.

DepEd Order No. 38 (July 31, 2017) allowed GSIS and Pag-IBIG Fund loans to be deducted from teachers' salaries without a cap, leading some to have a meager take-home pay below P4,000. However, the DepEd order was questioned by this representation as well as by some teacher groups, and this led to the issuance of DepEd Order No. 55 (dated October 26, 2017). The new DepEd order will prioritize deductions from GSIS and Pag-IBIG Fund loans without affecting teachers' mandated net take home pay. With accrued penalties of their loans from GSIS and an imposed deduction cap, teachers will have to pay their loans and penalties in a longer period. DepEd Order No. 55 implements the minimum take home pay of P4,000, consistent with Section 47 of the General Appropriations Act of 2017.

Mr. Speaker, my dear colleagues, the basic education system is already confronted with a myriad of problems. Yes, our teachers have had their fair shares in contributing to the current dilemma that they are experiencing. However, the onus should not be placed entirely on them.

Although the P 19,000.00 current gross salary of the teachers is a significant increase compared to the previous years, it was a tad too late for many of them because they have already incurred loans and debts prior to the increase precisely because of their low salaries.  Mr. Speaker, my dear colleagues, we need to immediately take affirmative steps in order to halt the increasing burden being experienced by our public-school teachers.

As the people’s representatives, it is within our power to intervene and promote the best interest of the people whose welfare are at stake. As such, I respectfully call on this august chamber to strongly urge the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) in immediately waiving incurred penalties of public school teachers in the payment of their loans. Certainly, the waived penalties may be miniscule in amounts, but this will certainly hasten the payment by our public-school teachers of their loans, and will go a long way in alleviating the financial burden that they are currently facing.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that education is our way out of poverty. Education is our way out of ignorance. Education is our way toward stability, self-sufficiency and true empowerment. Education is the key to the betterment of our society.

We may liken education as our nation’s fertilizer. It is the fertilizer that is needed for our nation’s development to take root and grow. But without the nurturing hand applying the fertilizer, the soil remains barren, dry and unproductive. Thus, it is essential that as policy-makers, we let our teachers focus on their job of educating our youth and worry less about their financial situation. And until the Government is able to provide the adequate and necessary resources in order to sufficiently cover all the needs of the education sector, all these remain an optimistic vision.

A take home of 4,000 pesos is unjust, particularly at this day and age, and with the continuing increase in the cost of living in our country. This amount may not even be sufficient to cover their transportation cost in going to and from their school. As fellow human beings, our teachers still need to live, eat, dress and send their children to school. It is incomprehensible how one can live with meager amount of P4,000 a month. Certainly, it is unjust for us to allow our teachers to suffer this fate. We must ensure that these teachers are able to provide for themselves and their families with sufficient take home salaries. We cannot allow our public-school teachers to suffer this injustice. Thus, this representation is elated to note that in the current proposed 2018 General Appropriations Act, this amount is increased to P6,000. But still, P6,000 is still very much insufficient for any family to be able to live decently.

Mr. Speaker, my dear colleagues, it was said by our national hero Jose Rizal that the youth is the hope of our country. (Kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan.)  These teachers are responsible for the molding of our youth; our country’s future. We must not ignore the pleas of the molders of our nation’s future.

Kung ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan, ang ating mga guro ang pag-asa ng mga kabataan.

Mr. Speaker, my dearest colleagues, in this regard, I am calling all the members of the House of Representatives to strongly urge the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to:

(1)          Waive immediately incurred penalties of public school teachers in the payment of their loans;

(2)          implement debt forgiveness or condonation for newly-retired and retiring public school teachers from 2017 to 2022, including teachers who are deceased before their scheduled retirement, so that these teachers and their families will benefit from the value of the retiring teachers’ maturing GSIS policy; and

(3)          DepEd, DOF, and government financial institutions to immediately conduct nationwide financial literacy and enabling training to empower public school teachers to manage their personal finances better and get them out of the path to financial ruin.

Along with this speech is a Resolution which I shall be filing to ensure that this call will be immediately realized.

Thank you and once again, a pleasant afternoon to all. (END)

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