When trying to do right turns out wrong

January 16, 2020

Good intentions – such as striving for orderliness in the recent Traslacion and improving the plight of public school teachers – sometimes mask what could turn out to be evil.

The adage that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” compliments the “law of unintended consequences” because while only a few people might nurture bad intentions, most of the problems in this world are caused by good intentions. Indeed, good intentions alone may not be enough to make some actions correct.

Good intentions were certainly behind the recent signing of the Salary Standardization Law granting some 1.5 million government workers, including public schoolteachers, yearly salary increases in four tranches starting January 2020 up to 2023. But are the good intentions enough to stop our educational system from deteriorating?

Of course, our country’s 800,000 public schoolteachers deserve the salary hike amid a special report that said low pay has resulted in “economic stagnation on the part of the teachers, with an estimated 75 percent of them trapped in debt totaling at least P300 billion.”

Compared to those of policemen, soldiers, jail officers and fire fighters whose salaries have been doubled by President Duterte, teachers’ salaries are low. An entry-level public school teacher gets a basic monthly salary of P20,754 or roughly two-thirds of the P29,668 received monthly last year by the entry-level policeman, soldier, and other uniformed personnel.

But here’s the problem: Raising the salaries of public schoolteachers without a simultaneous pay hike for their private counterparts would worsen the situation.

The P20,754 a public schoolteacher gets can be extremely high compared to the average salary in private schools which is merely P12,000 to P15,000 monthly across all regions. There are even private schoolteachers in one region getting paid with only P6,000 monthly, according to the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), and the Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges, and Universities (PAPSCU).

Improving the plight of teachers in public schools without doing so for those in private schools would only widen the inequality between the two.

“Raising the disparity in pay between public and private school teachers would further fuel the migration of private school teachers to public schools and exert financial pressures on private schools whose tuition fees are regulated by government,” according to the Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Action for Economic Reforms, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Foundation for Economic Freedom, and Philippine Business for Education.

Private schools can’t just raise their fees even if they get government approval because that would lead to lower enrollment and prompt the small private schools to close down, resulting in more problems for our public school system that has always been plagued with lack of classrooms.

As to the frenzied Traslacion during the recent Feast of the Back Nazarene, it can be assumed there were good intentions to make the event peaceful and orderly – the main reason why thousands of policemen, supported by military personnel and many others in the uniformed services, were there and apparently encouraged by Quiapo Church officials.

But many believe it was idiotic for church officials and police authorities to allow devotees to be violently shoved away from the venerated statue of Christ as its carriage inched along from Luneta. It was certainly cultural insensitivity, in the words of Julie Po of Linangan ng Kulturang Pilipino, to prevent the devotees from practicing their tradition of trying to get near the andas.

“They do not go there to create chaos. But the phalanx of policemen surrounding the Nazareno image last Jan. 9 looked like they were protecting the statue, when they were there supposedly to ensure the safety of the devotees,” she said.

“Devotees have to be near the Nazareno, as they have vowed to do so after a fulfilled, or yet-to-be-fulfilled, request. It is unfair for officials of the church or state to deny devotees this practice. Their faith could be the only thing keeping their body and soul going amid a chaotic system of oppression, repression and inequity,” Po explained in a Letter to the Editor of a leading broadsheet. (To be continued)

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