NOT the downpour or the scorching heat could dampen the determination of Josefina Tabasa as she patiently waited for her turn to receive the financial aid promised by the Cebu City Government.
Tabasa, who has been working as a public school teacher for the past 15 years, said the cash assistance would be a great help for her family, especially with the holidays.
“I will use this to buy goods for our noche buena and I can also now buy gifts for my family,” Tabasa said in a mix of English and Cebuano.
Tabasa admitted that budget constraints had initially pushed her to skip giving Christmas gifts to family members this year.
But with the financial assistance, Tabasa said yuletide celebrations will be merrier for her family now that she can afford to buy them presents.
Tabasa was one of 7,000 public school teachers who flocked to the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC) to each receive 10,000 in financial assistance from the City Governent on Friday morning, Dec. 20, 2019.
Before working at the Don Vicente Rama Memorial Elementary School in Barangay Basak Pardo, Tabasa said she was assigned to the Tagbao Elementary School for 10 months in 2004.
She recalled the tedious journey of traveling approximately 26.9 kilometers to get to the mountain barangay and the transportation cost she and her colleagues had to shoulder.
Mayor Edgardo Labella, for his part, assured that the City Government will resume extending the Cost of Living Allowance (Cola) for all public schools teachers in Cebu City in 2020.
Earlier, Labella said he will get the budget for Cola from the City’s general funds, not from the Special Education Funds, to avoid any legal impediment.
In 2017, the Commission on Audit’s (COA) ruling disallowed the City from providing Cola to the teachers since the allowance is already included in their basic pay.
A public school teacher used to receive a P1,200 monthly allowance from the City, or P12,000 in 10 months (one school year calendar). Labella promised to increase it to P1,500, or P15,000 in 10 months.
The teachers assigned in the mountain barangays may receive P2,000 since they would be spending more for their transportation.
State auditors also cited Department of Budget and Management Circular 2001-03 which states that payment of allowances and compensation such as Cola, amelioration allowance and inflation-tied allowance, among others, which are already integrated in the basic salary, are deemed unauthorized.
The Cebu City public school teachers returned their received Cola on an installment basis starting in 2017.
The previous administration deducted the teachers’ yearend bonuses as payment.
For this year, though, the teachers received in full their P10,000 financial assistance. Labella chose not to deduct any amount from the bonus intended for the teachers while the appeal is still pending in the COA.
In the return of Cola, Labella said teachers assigned in the mountain barangays will get bigger allowance, given difficulties in transportation.
The mayor also wants to hold the distribution of cash aid in another venue next year, preferrably in a covered court, to protect the teachers from the weather.