Three senators from the Liberal Party on Friday slammed Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno’s comment that a pay raise for teachers was “not a priority at this time” as “insensitive, if not heartless.”
Senator Francis Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party, said Diokno’s statement was not the way to treat public school teachers.
“It’s not certainly the way to treat our public school teachers, who have been seeking government’s help for higher salaries and additional benefits so that they can live decently,” he said in a joint statement.
“Beyond their traditional mission in the classrooms, teachers are mentors and influencers of the youth and of the community. Their critical role in nation-building could not be overlooked,” he added.
Pangilinan and two other fellow lawmakers from the Liberal Part were reacting to a statement made by Diokno, who seemed lukewarm to the idea of a pay raise for teachers, an idea proposed by the President himself.
“I think that is not our priority at this time. Our priorities are Build, Build, Build and social protection, taking care of the poor,” Diokno was quoted as saying.
“It should be studied carefully. We don’t want a budget that is purely for salaries. I don’t think Filipinos taxpayers would like that,” he added.
For his part, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, said Diokno “has no reason to whine about the cost” of a pay hike for teachers, since the government has just doubled the salaries of soldiers, cops, and other uniformed personnel.
“Instead of slamming the doors on the plea of the teachers, Secretary Diokno should use his wise judgment and skills to find the funds and put money where it is most needed. Investments on the country’s human resources, especially our teachers, can never go wrong,” Drilon said.
For his part, Senator Bam Aquino said teachers have “legitimate demands” as their work requires dedication and hard work.
“They have legitimate demands and are not shielded from the impact of higher prices of goods and services, especially with the TRAIN law in place,” he said.
“Gaya ng sundalo at pulis, gumagamit din sila ng gasolina, bumibili ng pagkain at iba pang gastusin na nagtaas na dahil sa TRAIN law,” he added.
The leaders of progressive group ACT Teachers were also quick to slam Diokno for his comment, branding him as “Teacher’s Enemy #1”.