By Alliance of Concerned Teachers
October 23, 2018
QUEZON CITY – More than 122,000, or 1 in every 7 public school teachers, are confronted with due and demandable loan arrears which need to be settled until October 31 as per the records of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). Teachers protested over the ballooning of arrears which are mainly caused by the failure of GSIS and the Department of Education (DepEd) to make the agency-to-agency loan payment work through the automatic salary deduction system.
In a tripartite dialogue with GSIS and DepEd arranged by ACT Teachers Party-list last week, both agencies refused to take responsibility for the debacle. GSIS denied teachers' demand to condone the compounded interests and penalties and warned instead of an additional 12% interest imposition if arrears are not settled on the set deadline. DepEd, on the other hand, offered no reprieve and even called on teachers to 'cooperate and move forward,' saying that the problem was the doing of past administrations.
“The two agencies have created a colossal problem but refuse to take any responsibility. It is highly unfair that they want to penalize teachers for the failure of their rotten systems,” said Joselyn Martinez, chairperson of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines.
Martinez hold the DepEd accountable for many years that it has “illegally prioritized the deduction of loan payments for private lending institutions instead of the GSIS.” She added that this is a classic example of how teachers are made to suffer due to corruption within the agency.
“GSIS cannot evade accountability as well. What did the agency do during those years when DepEd was not remitting loan payments? Apparently, GSIS likes it better for loans to compound as it spells bigger profits for them,” Martinez stated.
Martinez denounced GSIS' unbending stand to make teachers shoulder the full cost of the arrears when “the problem of incompatible and unreliable computer systems of both agencies remain unresolved.”
“Even if teachers settle their arrears now through restructuring, the problem will only repeat as the roots of the problem are not addressed,” she lamented.
Martinez said that the stance of both agencies show their “insensitivity and complete disregard of teachers’ welfare in the midst of soaring inflation and erosion of the purchasing power of teachers' salaries.”
“Teachers apply for loans mainly due to scant salaries and not because of whims or caprices. The inadequacy of pay remains the reason for our inability to pay the arrears, which in the first place are unjustly computed. This is not acceptable to teachers,” said Martinez.
ACT reiterated their demand to the Duterte administration for substantial salary increase of P30,000 for Teacher 1. They also push for an immediate increase of the Personnel Economic Relief Allowance (PERA) from P2,000 to P5,000 to cope with the soaring inflation.