Health insurance eyed for public school teachers

FILE PHOTO: Teacher Ann Mariel Foronda guides a kindergarten pupil in writing his name at Pinyahan Elementary School in Quezon City during the resumption of full in-person classes for public schools on November 2, 2022. INQUIRER/NIÑO JESUS ORBETA




Manila, Philippines – Qualified employees of the Department of Education (DepEd), including around 900,000 public school teachers, will each receive a special recognition incentive (SRI) of P18,000 starting Tuesday.

In a memorandum dated Dec. 15, DepEd said schools division offices would begin processing the additional benefit on Monday, with distribution to follow the next day.

The incentive to be given out in cash is in compliance with the Office of the President’s Administrative Order No. 12 which authorizes the “release of a one-time SRI at a uniform rate not exceeding P20,000” to employees in the executive branch.

In 2022, DepEd employees received an SRI of P15,000 although the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) earlier said that it was hoping the maximum incentive amount of P20,000 would be given this year.

Same amount

“Maximum effort and service is always expected from teachers, especially since there are so many deficiencies in our system. Therefore, we deserve maximum SRI,” the TDC said in a statement.

In a text message to the Inquirer, TDC chair Benjo Basas said that while their group was grateful for the incentive, the amount should be the same for all government employees and not based on the savings of their respective agencies.

“Because some will be given P20,000 and some will be given less when we are all [civil] servants,” he noted.

“This is also an opportunity to recognize the hard work and sacrifices that our teachers and [nonteaching] staff have made this past year, so I hope that in the years to come, we will try and find a way to reach the maximum of P20,000,” Basas said.

For her part, House Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro accused DepEd of being stingy. She added that teachers deserved more, especially those who were handling classes with 50 to 60 students.

Cash only

According to the DepEd memorandum signed by Education Undersecretary Michael Poa and Assistant Secretary Francis Bringas, “the default mode of [SRI] distribution shall be in cash only.”

Only teachers in far-flung areas will be exempted from the cash-only mode of distribution upon request with their SRIs to be coursed through their ATM payroll accounts.

Public school teachers have been resorting to different schemes just to avail themselves of loans from private lending institutions, with some even opting to pawn their ATM cards to nonaccredited entities.

In some cases, nonaccredited loan firms even take possession of the teachers’ ATM cards to allow them to directly withdraw the monthly payments.

Over 1.8 million government employees are expected to receive this year’s SRI which should not exceed P20,000. Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said the incentive was in recognition of their hard work and contribution to the administration’s efforts to comply with the Philippine Development Plan and Eight-Point Socioeconomic Agenda.

“Qualified for the P20,000 SRI are civilian personnel in national government agencies, including those in state universities and colleges and government-owned or -controlled corporations, occupying regular, contractual or casual positions,” the Presidential Communications Office said in a statement after the signing of AO No. 12 on Dec. 7.

Others entitled

Other beneficiaries are Armed Forces military personnel under the defense department, uniformed personnel of the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology under the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Bureau of Corrections under the Department of Justice, Philippine Coast Guard under the Department of Transportation, and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Also entitled to the SRI are personnel in the legislative and judicial departments and other offices vested with fiscal autonomy, local water districts, and agencies exempted from the coverage of Republic Act No. 6758.As for civilian personnel, they must be occupying regular, contractual or casual positions; still be in government service as of Nov. 30 this year; and have rendered at least four months of satisfactory service to qualify for the incentive.