Failure of empathy

October 21, 2018

Unconscionable as it is intolerable.

PedXing could not put it any other way.

The seemingly systematic, institutionalized, and apparently large-scale rip-off of public school teachers just trying to make both ends meet through loans.

Teachers, soldiers, and policemen have actually been granted hefty pay adjustments since the Duterte administration took office.

But sharp spikes in the prices of basic consumer goods and services have virtually wiped out the incremental salaries, forcing most of them to turn to short-term credit just to get by.

It is a good thing that they have professional associations which also serve as institutional lenders to members.

It is generally assumed that these loan providers offer emergency credit to qualified borrowers at low interest rates and easy payment terms. After all, they are lending the money contributed by the members themselves.

This is the whole idea behind savings and loans associations and credit cooperatives.

But why does PedXing still hear much wailing and weeping from public school teachers who are being financially bled dry by modern-day institutional Shylocks who get away with their pounds of flesh?

A radio newscaster/commentator lent a generous portion of his air-time to a teacher who wanted to air some grievances he has with the Manila Teachers Mutual Aid System.

This teacher had loaned money from MTMAS, and was able to pay it back in one year. But he was surprised, shocked even, to find that MTMAS had charged him three years’ worth of interest, instead of just one. Add this to the fact that because of the Department of Education policy, these payments are made through automatic deductions on his payroll account. He was helpless in this situation.

He said that MTMAS had not provided him a copy of their memorandum of agreement, which is crucial in any transaction that involves making a loan. He could not argue against MTMAS’ claims, since he had no copy of the terms he agreed to.

A representative of MTMAS claimed that it is easy for teachers to approach the association, and it would address their concerns. However, the teacher—and the other teachers with him—laughed at this. He is still trying to recover the over-charge from MTMAS.

There’s a stark disconnect between what some teachers experience with MTMAS and what MTMAS’ press releases say. How could an association of teachers have so little empathy for other teachers? How is it possible to charge one person three years’ worth of interest if he paid back his loans in only a year? Think about that on an administrative level and a moral level.

As it happens, MTMAS has a sitting party-list representative at the Congress. This representative served as chairman and CEO of the teachers’ savings and loans association that his family also founded.

He sought to represent the teachers at the Congress, but he’s also representing another thing: his business interests. Since the congressman was elected, savings and loans associations and mutual benefit associations like MTMAS exclusively hold second priority in the General Appropriations Act’s imposed order of preference in automatic payroll deductions for the payment of obligations. It’s a gap in the party-list system that this glaring conflict of interest was overlooked.

This conflict of interest was also brought up in the radio interview. The MTMAS representative denied that the congressman was still tied to the association; however, since he is the association’s party-list representative, it’s a little hard to believe that he doesn’t.

This is a result of a series of failures in administration: the failure to have a proper system in loaning out money, the failure to accurately compute loan interest, and the failure to identify and prevent this conflict of interest from entering the halls of the House. Wouldn’t MTMAS be a better lender if it were accurate in its computations and transparent in its dealings? Wouldn’t this conflict of interest be avoided if someone paid a little more attention to the representative’s certificate of candidacy?

But most of all, this is a failure in empathy. It’s difficult to comprehend that a group of people would want to take advantage of the desperation of teachers for their own financial gain.

At the end of the day, teachers have everything to lose, and MTMAS has everything to gain.

Behold God’s glory and seek His mercy.

Pause and pray, people.