MANILA, Philippines -- A day after the resolution of the hostage crisis in the town of Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur, involving public school teachers and officials, the Teachers' Dignity Coalition (TDC) yesterday reminded the Department of Education (DepEd) that it must pay hardship allowance to teachers in conflict areas.
According to TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas, Education Secretary Armin Luistro is mandated by Republic Act 4670 or the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers to "determine the areas where teachers are exposed to hardships and provide an allowance equivalent to 25 percent of their basic pay."
The law, Basas said, was approved in 1966, "yet the implementing guidelines were promulgated only in December 2007." The guidelines, which were released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) through National Budget Circular 514, identifies "the presence of armed conflict in the work area as one of the hazard posts and thereby entitles the teachers and school personnel a special hardship allowance."
But even that is not an assurance that teachers in the conflict zones enjoy this privilege, said Basas, adding, "In most cases, this not implemented."
Reports from TDC showed that Agusan crisis is the fifth major abduction case involving teachers since 2009 in Mindanao alone.
Three teachers from Zamboanga City were kidnapped in January and another three in March. In November of the same year, a Sulu principal was kidnapped and later beheaded by his kidnappers. And in December 2009, 75 people, including teachers were also held hostage in Agusan Sur by armed men led by Ondo Perez.
Perez is a relative of the group that carried out the most recent kidnapping who demand his release from jail.
"No doubt, teachers are exposed to hardships and hazards in these areas and therefore must be properly compensated," Basas said.
Prosperidad Mayor Alvin Magdamit had noted that the kidnapping was "tragic because these are lowly paid teachers who are being held."
Basas said teachers could refuse to be assigned in those areas where they could be at risk, because aside from a very minimal compensation, they fear for their safety. "Such scenario would lead to failure to deliver the basic right of Filipino children to education," Basas said.
The TDC also challenged the DepEd to start the inventory of all those who may be entitled to special hardship allowances.