Teachers from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) joined today’s protest as the world commemorates the 70th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The group called for the recognition and protection of teachers’ right to decent living wages, the youth’s right to education, and the right against political persecution, among others.
“As teachers, we are legally mandated to teach our students absolute respect for human rights. We must live by our teachings and advocate for those rights in order to be effective educators. Even more so, we have a moral obligation to uphold human rights. That is why we are here today,” explained Joselyn Martinez, ACT National Chairperson.
The group depicted the situation of teachers' human rights through a teacher who wore multiple hands to show the overworked and underpaid situation of mentors as she is subjected to 'Duterte's Wheel of Misfortune', which contained the various ludicrous criminal offenses charged against teachers and activists for being critical of the current regime, namely, kidnapping, child abuse, human trafficking, illegal possession of firearms, murder, and rebellion. The teacher wore a headdress which bore the call 'Stop the Attacks on Teachers.'
Martinez lamented the current state of human rights in the country, stating that “it’s been disregarded and disrespected for so long by the very institution required to ensure its full exercise. The government has been the number one human rights violator in the country.”
“The education sector alone has suffered greatly due to government neglect,” added Martinez.
She criticized the Duterte administration for failing to protect teachers and education workers’ right to a decent and dignified life as their demands for the implementation of measures to mitigate the severe impacts of the economic crisis remain unheeded. ACT has been clamoring for a pay hike not only for teachers but for all government employees as well, as shown in their call for a P30K minimum pay for teachers and P16K for government workers belonging to salary grade 1. Additionally, the group is pushing for a P3,000 increase in the Personnel Economic Relief Allowance (PERA).
Martinez added that the youth’s right to quality education has also been compromised due to the impending budget cuts to education. Moreover, the more disadvantaged children of the Indigenous People, such as the Lumad, are denied of their very right to education “as evidenced by the forcible closure of their schools which is being carried out by state forces with the help of paramilitary groups like the Alamara.”
“Instead of addressing these major gaps, the government opted to harass and persecute those who dare to take action in the spirit of upholding human rights,” stated Martinez, referring to the recent charges filed against ACT Teachers Representatives Tinio and Castro.
“We will not allow this to continue. The Duterte administration must be held accountable for its negligence as well as its direct attacks against the people’s rights. As for us, we fully intend to exercise our right to organize and give power to our collective resolve to fight for our rights and for social justice,” concluded Martinez.