January 13, 2018

THE GOVERNMENT’S expressed intent to grant the long overdue demand for salary increase of public school teachers is most welcome. Public school teachers are overworked and underpaid, and they face more difficulties now with the rising cost of living due to the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion or the TRAIN Law.

The President appears to have eventually yielded to the pressures of the teachers’ long-running collective struggle for salary increase despite the consistent opposition by Budget secretary Benjamin Diokno and Education secretary Leonor Briones. Diokno recently said increasing the salaries of public school teachers was “not a priority” and that salaries across all government personnel would only be reviewed after 4th tranche of the Salary Standardization Law IV would have been implemented in 2019.

It is only just that the administration immediately grants the well-deserved substantial salary increase for public school teachers. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that its employees’ compensation increases as the cost of living rises. TRAIN Law’s higher taxes on basic commodities and services only cancel out the relief from lowering of personal income tax.

But the promised pay hike should not be sourced from new tax impositions. The government only needs to efficiently implement its tax collection to make the increase possible. Finance undersecretary Karl Chua himself revealed that between P500 billion to P600 billion in taxes remain uncollected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs every year.

It would be good if Malacañang clarifies right away the amount and the implementation schedule of the teachers’ pay hike. The Duterte administration has already set the benchmark by doubling the basic pay of policemen starting this year.  Our teachers deserve nothing less.

There is, however, something quite off about the Palace spokesperson’s claim that the hike in teachers’ salaries will depend on the passage of the administration’s second tax reform proposal.  Is this a new propaganda line? The Department of Finance has always said that the administration’s tax reform proposals are meant to fund infrastructure, not teachers’ pay hikes.  This is a blatant PR tactic intended to make the new tax package, the centerpiece of which is the lowering of corporate income tax, more palatable to the public.  Please don’t use teachers to deodorize your pro-rich taxes.


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