A white knight for teachers

October 28, 2018

We are not defined by our difficulties; we are defined by how we respond to them

—Keifer Sutherland in Designated Survivor

Cinematic art and reality not only imitate each other; at some point, they actually converge.

It is difficult at first to find out who the hero is and who is the villain in both film and real life. Sub-plots and previous events (flashbacks) provide a helpful background and put events in proper context.

After reading this, it  should be clear as daylight who is the hero and who is the villain in this financial tear-jerker.

Just recently, an equally concerned colleague wrote a passionate defense of the DepEd Order  5 s. 2018 arguing its necessity to protect public school teachers from their “utter lack of financial literacy” while implying that banks are the merciless predators to the financial plight of our public school teachers.

He supported Cong. Batocabe’s claims that commercial banks are guising under rural and thrift banks to enter the lending market which, according to him, aim to flood teachers with a huge supply of credit to avail themselves of; but quickly added a disclaimer that he doesn’t mean to persuade teachers to renege on their obligations from them.

Apparently writing from the limited information he has gathered, PedXing understands his utter lack of appreciation for matters that truly matter, like the sentiments of public school teachers on the issue.

To treat them as financially illiterate is an insult to their profession. For instance, when asked if the stereotype was true, Teacher Lilibeth Israel from Iloilo was instantly offended. She explained the various reasons why they do it, and it’s not like they actually want to do it.

Teachers borrow money not to support luxurious lifestyle or buy the latest smart phone, but because their salaries cannot cover their family’s basic needs.

According to a teacher’s group, the loans they apply for were used for emergency purposes, education of their children, house construction, etc. This is not to mention here that their salary was only given once a month!

Their propensity to borrow resulted not only from their incommensurate salaries but also from bureaucratic inefficiency, yet teachers are still unfairly blamed for this situation.

Taking the pulse of public school teacher’s sentiments on the issue, PedXing was told that they continuously look for alternative sources of income.

In schools, there is a thriving “underground economy”.  It is normal to see a teacher doing the rounds during lunch break to sell perfumes, Tupperwares, etc. Some do paluwagan, and some getting salary loans.

Teachers seek cooperatives, government financial institutions, and rural and savings banks to borrow money. And the plethora of these industry players led to lower interest rates and more flexibility in loan arrangements. It is the competition allowing the teachers in the financial inclusion blanket.

But some lenders are just so ready to monopolize the business. As PedXing was saying, a fellow was trying to insinuate that banks are predators aiming to financially burden public school teachers. But Teacher Lilibeth said she prefers loaning from thrift banks simply because they are more convenient and offer lower interest rates. Her loans were used for the construction of their home and tuition of her sons.

Teachers try their best to maximize the available sources of funds because they choose to survive and live decently. To limit their financial resources is to diminish their chance of survival.

Batocabe may think that kicking banks out of the equation would eventually lead teachers to freedom from indebtedness, but he has forgotten those thousands of public school teachers whose houses were built, children were sent to school, and surpassed an emergency-- all because of bank loans.

Which begs the question about his intent on saying that because clearly, banks are not the issue here, let alone all other private lenders catering to teachers – but the government’s capacity to compensate them fairly and properly.

The moves in Congress to use the issue to benefit some political interests should call the attention of Senator Loren Legarda to look into the matter since the DO 5 was crafted under the General Appropriations Act which her committee is overseeing.

As the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, the Senator should contemplate on the issue, especially that it would inflict more harm than good for public school teachers in the near future.

Behold God’s glory and seek His mercy.

Pause and pray, people.