Basilan Bishop to ARMM: please release teacher?s salaries

The Catholic bishop told the Mindanao Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC) Friday that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has actually released the money to the ARMM on July 10 but as of Friday, the teachers had yet to receive their salaries.  The Basilan teachers are predominantly Muslim.

Jumoad said he brought the matter of unpaid salaries of the Basilan teachers to the attention of President Arroyo in early July when President Arroyo met with Mindanao’s bishops. Jumoad said the same problem was happening in the other ARMM areas.

ARMM comprises the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao and the Islamic City of Marawi.

Basilan and Marawi City joined the ARMM after the August 14, 2001 plebiscite expanding the autonomous region. The rest were ARMM member since the plebiscite of November 1989.

Dr. Mahid Mutilan, former ARMM Vice Governor and Education Secretary and head of the Ulama League of the Philippines told the Bishops-Ulama Conference meeting last Friday here that “the problem is not only the teachers in Basilan but  teachers in Lanao del Sur who suffered much.”

Mutilan said the Lanao teachers “have to travel to Cotabato to get their salaries. And you can imagine who suffers. They have to wait for that very long queue in the release of salary.”

Jumoad said President Arroyo instructed Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya to release the funds in early July and that Andaya phoned him on July 10 informing him he had delivered the money to the regional office.

“The problem is in the regional office,” he said, adding Abaya informed him P200 million had been released for 16,000 ARMM teachers.

Jumoad brought with him a “joint affidavit of request for release of unpaid salaries” dated August 8, 2006, from 10 public elementary schoolteachers in Lantawan district, one in Lamitan West and one in Tipo-tipo East, that they had not been paid their salaries from June to September 2005 amoutning to P37,895.44 each.

He also brought a copy of a July 13, 2006 letter to him from the Basilan DepED-ARMM Teachers and Employees (BasTEA)  seeking his help in having their September 2005 salaries.

“Adding sadness to our sufferings is the memorandum of the new ARMM Governor … indicating that his administration will shoulder only the expenses incurred during his term,” the BasTEA said in their letter signed by the president, two vice presidents, secretary, treasurer, auditor, public information officer and 51 members.

Datu Zaldy Ampatuan took over as ARMM governor from Parouk Hussin on September 30, 2005.

The BasTEA also said in their letter that the high school teachers have not received their June 2006 salaries.

The group said they had written Governor Ampatuan on April 21 and ARMM Education Secretary Dr. Udtog Kawit on June 27 about the unpaid salaries. They said Kawit told them he had signed the check for mid-year bonus and June 2006 salary. “But we only received the midyear bonus which was very much late for the enrollment of our children.”

MindaNews sought Ampatuan’s comment but he was unavailable as of presstime.

Ustadz Israel Baraguir, former vice governor of Maguindanao, stood up to request an end to the discussion, explaining “this is a great embarrassment to the Muslim people, especially in the presence of our friends from Indonesia.”

The BUC meeting had as guests eight Catholic and Protestant bishops and ulama from Indonesia.

Baraguir said the proper venue to ventilate the issue is before the regional governor of the ARMM.

But Mutilan said, “there is nothing wrong here. We are here also as part of the ARMM and this is the problem of the ARMM.” He cited “humanitarian purposes” why the topic should be brought out in the open. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)