Disgruntled Teachers In Sulu Hold Protest Rally, Classes Suspended

December 3, 2007 at 12:29 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 03, 2007) – Hundreds of disgruntled government teachers walked out of schools Monday in the southern Filipino province of Sulu and threatened to barricade themselves unless their salaries have paid.

The teachers complained that they have not been paid their wages the past months by the Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and that their contributions to the state pension agency which are worth over 600 million pesos since 2003 were also missing.

They threatened to stage a mass protest should ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan fail to act on their problems. More than 5,000 teachers are currently teaching in Sulu province, about 950 kilometers south of Manila.

“The teachers are no longer reporting for work. We can no longer take it; our plight is so difficult now. We are suffering,” Faizal Kaddi, secretary of the Sug Educators Forum, told the radio network dzRH by phone from Jolo town, where they held a protest rally in front of the Department of Education.

Kaddi said they received reports that teachers in Basilan province also walked out of their classes.

“The whole world should know how difficult the situation of the teachers in the ARMM. We cannot bear it anymore and we are slowly losing our dignity,” he said.

In October, more than 1,000 public school teachers sought the help of Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan and asked him to President Gloria Arroyo of their plight.

Abdulbasit Pawakil, president of the larger Federation of Sulu Teachers, also asked for a government audit and to investigate the problems of delayed and missing salaries and contributions to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

He said that as of 2003, more than P389 million of teachers’ contributions to GSIS were missing and that this has ballooned to over P600 million and yet ARMM continues to deduct insurance premiums from their salaries. “What is going on? We know the problems, yet nobody is acting on it,” he said.

The teachers were asking for a formal Congressional or Senate investigations into the missing GSIS contributions and salaries and jail those who would be found guilty of embezzling funds.

Others have called on Ampatuan to resign for his failure to address the problems of the teachers in Sulu. They also wanted the Department of Education in Manila to take over the responsibilities of deducting state pension contributions and paying their salaries from the ARMM.

Lawyer Oscar Sampulna, ARMM Executive Secretary, denied all the allegations and insisted the teachers received their salaries on time.

“They are receiving their salaries. Those who are complaining were temporary teachers whose special permits to teach had not been renewed or revoked basically for their lack of the proper documents required by the Department of Education,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

None from the Department of Education in ARMM or any of its representatives went to Sulu to talk to the teachers about their complaints. Sampulna said those who were complaining should go to the ARMM in Cotabato City in Maguindanao province about their problems. (Mindanao Examiner)

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