COTABATO CITY, Philippines - The present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) officialdom held another episode of its initiative in paying arrears in incomes of teachers, serving this time some 1,246 claimants of wages and benefits accumulated since 2006 in a three-day dispersal process here that started Monday for the 11 schools divisions in the region involving at least P106 million.
On Monday's kick-off day, lawyers Naguib Sinarimbo and Baratucal Caudang, regional executive secretary and ARMM education secretary, respectively, personally handed checks to individual payee-teachers from the two school divisions of Maguindanao at the ARMM Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Center (SKCC) here.
The huge SKCC building was chosen as venue by ARMM acting Governor Ansaruddin Alonto Adiong to ''ensure that concerned teachers are assembled in one place to receive personally their back salaries and benefits in checks,'' Caudang said.
A 61-year-old Teacher 1, Ali Sabpel of Balungis Elementary School in Pagalungan town, was the first who was called among queuing 279 teachers from Maguindanao to receive his 11 checks covering his back salaries from June to December, 2006, and January to February 2007, including bonuses amounting to a total of P92,000.
Emerging from the venue in obvious high spirit, Sabpel confided to reporters his agony and that those of his peers in teaching without salaries for several months, even as he expressed ''deep gratitude to the Adiong administration for taking the cudgel for us.''
''Candidly, I did not expect I could get my back pay from 2006 to 2007,'' Sabpel said, because he had received bigger arrears payment in checks for his incomes from 2007 to 2011 at the third episode of the Adiong administration's payment process last April.
Upon the takeover of Caudang of the ARMM's Education Department in 2010, he said Adiong ordered him to ensure that all salary obligations and insurance remittances of teachers unpaid by past regional administrations ''must me settled'' within his term of office.
Thus, Caudang sourced out funds and conducted the first two legs of paying teachers' arrears in salaries and benefits in September and December 2010, cashing out more than P300 million in two tranches.
Finance officials of the Office of the Regional Governor (ORG) said that because of the far distance of Tawi-Tawi, they allowed on Monday a liaison officer from the island province's schools division to receive the checks for 176 claimant-teachers.
Tuesday's check distribution process served 383 claimant-teachers from the four schools divisions in Lanao del Sur, and 68 others from Marawi City schools division, one of them received 104 checks amounting to P1.07 million constituting of her back salaries and bonuses from April, 2008, up to September 2,011, sources from the ORG finance division said.
They said 119 teacher-claimants from the two schools divisions in Sulu and 14 from Basilan's lone school division are set to receive their own back salaries and benefits Wednesday, in a fashion estimated to have ''fully settled'' the DepEd-ARMM's unpaid obligations to some of the region's almost 21,000 teachers.
Adiong said the settlement of the unpaid salaries and benefits of some 4,000 public schools teachers accumulated under the past ARMM administration ''would form part of the highlights'' of his leadership.
The elective term of Adiong alongside 25 other elected ARMM officials lapsed on September 30 but all of them are serving their offices on holdover capacity as mandated by a Supreme Court temporary restraining order issued on September 13, halting the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 10153.
RA 10153 synchronized the August 8, 2011 elections with the 2013 midterm elections and allowed the President to appoint officers-in-charge in the region for 21 months.
It is, however, facing at least seven petitions questioning its constitutionality before the High Tribunal.
North Korea fired two missiles into the sea on Monday and vowed "merciless" retaliation as the US and South Korea kicked off joint military drills denounced by Pyongyang as recklessly confrontational. The annual exercises always trigger a surge in military tensions and warlike rhetoric on the divided peninsula, and analysts saw the North's missile tests as a prelude to a concerted campaign of sabre rattling. "And if there is a particularly sharp escalation, we could see the North …