ARMM teachers elated with restoration of GSIS benefits PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 15 June 2014 13:57

For teachers Rosita and Linda, the June 11 restoration of transactions — cut for almost two decades — between 15,715 mentors in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the Government Service Insurance System was just as significant as Thursday’s 116th Philippine Independence Day.

The GSIS, the office of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, and the Department of Budget and Management forged in Manila, on the eve of the Independence Day, a memorandum of agreement (MOA) that underscored a convenient settlement scheme for P1 billion-worth of unpaid premiums deducted from teachers’ salaries that were allegedly pocketed by past regional officials.

The DBM, under the MOA, will pay the GSIS state pension funds to facilitate the resumption of the benefits of the affected ARMM teachers, most of them assigned in far-flung towns in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which are both in mainland Mindanao, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

“This initiative of the ARMM administration, the DBM and the GSIS gave us independence from the bondage of being somewhat like `owned’ by loan sharks and usurers because of heavy indebtedness,” said Najirul, also a public school teacher.

Jamar Kulayan, regional secretary of the ARMM’s Department of Education, said they are grateful to Malacañang for supporting the “tripartite effort” to address the miserable plight of thousands of teachers in the autonomous region, whose lives were made difficult by the non-remittance to the GSIS of their monthly insurance premiums that were deducted from their salaries during the time of past administrations.

“Our teachers in the region have finally been freed from uncertainty on their entitlement to their benefits from the GSIS. The problem was so serious that even some retired DeEd-ARMM employees were just as badly affected,” Kulayan told The Star.

There were even stories, and published reports on how several teachers in the ARMM were forced to anomalously feign death and claim benefits, and leave the education department, just raise enough money to pay usurers and avoid prosecution for non fulfillment of loan agreements that charged them exorbitant interest rates, some up to P25 percent of the borrowed sum.

Hundreds of rank-and-file employees of the DepEd-ARMM joined Thursday’s commemoration of the 116th Philippine Independence Day at the 32-hectare regional government compound in Cotabato City, as a joint celebration of the country’s birth as a nation, and as thanksgiving for the crafting of a MOA that finally fixed their strained transactional ties with the GSIS.

“We ought to thank Allah, first and foremost, for giving the officials of ARMM, the DBM and the GSIS the wisdom needed in settling the problem that has, for so long, affected our working morale and efficiency, and made our lives so difficult,” commented Edna, who is handling second year classes in a state-run high school.

Thursday’s celebration of the Independence Day at the ARMM compound was capped with Hataman and Kulayan’s release of stipends to dozens of new “Iskolar ng Bayan” beneficiaries from Maguindanao and other parts of the autonomous region.

“We are thankful to the ARMM government for these scholarship grants. This program will help alleviate the youth sector in the region from underdevelopment due to illiteracy,” said Angeline, a daughter of a lowly-mechanic in Basilan.

Angeline, an Iskolar ng Bayan grantee, is pursuing a master’s degree at the Basilan State College, where she finished a college course with honors.

“This scholarship package is a big help to me and my family. My father earn only a measly weekly income of about P1,000 by fixing cars and trucks in a small repair shop,” she said.