Manila: Filipino public school teachers, considered second-class citizens among Philippine government workers, are weighed down by huge debts, a fact acknowledged by the education department.
Data from the Philippines’ Department of Education (DepEd) show Filipino teachers now owe a total debt of at least Php319 billion ($6.38 billion) to both public and private lenders — a huge jump from just Php163 billion 2017, according to Business Mirror and the Inquirer.
It’s not immediately clear how the nearly two-fold increase came about.
What the DepEd says
Dr Leonor M. Briones, the DepEd secretary, believes public school teachers in the Philippines are not "underpaid".
While she credits teachers for the country’s success, she blames some for a severe lack of financially literacy.
Teacher indebtedness, she said, is due is due to a lack of discipline and sound personal financial-management — and a habit of borrowing money from loan sharks.
Teachers’ pay was raised by at least 16.21 per cent or Php2,792.03 per month from 2018, according to DepEd.
As such, an entry-level Teacher 1 (Salary Grade 11), without dependents, receives a gross basic salary of Php20,179 and a net take-home pay of Php20,012.89 ($385), from the previous basic salary of Php19,620 and take-home pay of P17,220.86, according to the agency.
Php20,012pesos ($385) is the net take-home pay of an entry-level public school teacher in the Philippines
In addition, the annual “chalk allowance”, intended for the purchase of classroom supplies, was raised to P3,500 from P2,500, and the clothing allowance also increased to Php6,000 from Php5,000.
48%less is the salary received by a entry-level teacher, compared to an entry-level police officer in the Philippines.
In contrast, a Police Officer 1 (PO1) receives Php29,668, ($571) 48 per cent higher the compensation for an entry-level teacher position.
On average, all police ranks received a 58.7-per cent pay hike from January 2018. Uniformed personnel also enjoyed increases in other allowances — longevity pay, flying pay, sea duty pay, and instructor's duty pay. Police personnel also enjoy higher benefits upon retirement.
Official data show that of the teachers’ current debt burden, they owe P157.4 billion to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), and P162 billion in outstanding loans to “accredited” private lenders.
This does not include the amount owed to unauthorised lenders, who give easier access to loans — but charge higher interest rates.
In a report, Manila’s daily Inquirer stated that the amount of teachers’ debt is higher than the combined budget allocation for the Philippine National Police, the Army, the Air Force and the Navy.
The solution to the teachers’ plight, say their advocates is to raise teachers’ pay — but the government says there’s no money for this.
Dr Briones, the education secretary, also believes public school teachers in the Philippines are not underpaid.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) bats for Php30,000 ($577) base pay for entry-level teachers, the majority of the country’s teaching force.
The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition had also called for a P10,000 across-the-board salary hike.
For its part, government budget officials said if they were to raise all teachers’ salary by P10,000, it would be forced to shell out about Php150 billion ($2.88 billion), money it claims it does not have.
A think-tank, however, says government should be able to source the money without bothering the ordinary taxpayers. They cite that an income tax hike of 30 per cent on people earning Php50 million or more a month would help generate Php400 billion each year — while affecting only about 38,000 individuals, or 0.04 per cent of the population.
However, any such move will draw protests from rich Filipinos. The debate over teachers’ pay — with stories about toilets being turned into faculty rooms — has hogged local headlines in recent weeks.
Dr Briones earlier said that “teachers should not be in it for the money”. But teacher advocates say that as anxiety attacks triggered by indebtedness weigh teachers down, this could distract them from their true calling.
Php3,000 take-home pay
Biones earlier told the story of a male teacher who previously complained in Pasig City about his take-home salary, which was only P3,000.
Briones said DepEd should not be blamed for it because the teacher’s salary is actually P25,000 (about $500 a month) — including bonuses and perks — but the teacher (not identified) owed money to seven different lending institutions.
Briones said the government is only responsible for giving the appropriate salary to sustain a teacher. “What a teacher does to his or her money is also his or her own responsibility,” Briones said.
She said the real culprit behind small take-home pay of most teachers is the lack of a sound personal financial-management system, and the way borrowing money from loan sharks has become a habit for most of them.
Teachers usually borrow from the GSIS. In addition, they also borrow from “5-6” loan sharks and “sangla-ATM” (pawn-ATM). Many end up pawn the small family valuables — refrigerator, electric fan, washing machine, wedding ring.
According to the Philippine Regulation Commission (PRC), there are more than 500 pending cases against teachers filed by various lending institutions in the past three years.
The Department of Education (DepEd) said based on a study of “spending patterns”, teachers tend to over-borrow compared to other government employees. The agency said they are looking into possible factors for this “propensity”.
On Feb. 15, 2018, DepEd issued Order No. 5, pursuant to the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2018. Among others, it sets a minimum of Php5,000 Net Take Home Pay (NTHP) threshold.
"Any financial obligation incurred by any personnel of the Department of Education (DepEd) shall not be deducted from his/her monthly salary if such deduction will lower his/her NTHP beyond the P5,000.00 threshold. No waivers effectively reducing the NTHP shall be allowed."
On Feb. 15, 2018, DepEd issued Order No. 5, pursuant to the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2018. Teachers usually borrow from the GSIS. In addition, they also borrow from “5-6” loan sharks and “sangla-ATM” (pawn-ATM). Many end up pawning small family valuables — refrigerator, electric fan, washing machine, wedding ring.