PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte said it may take time to honor a campaign promise to raise teachers’ salaries because there are “millions” of educators in government schools.

“Now I have doubled (soldiers’) salaries. I prioritized them. Next would be the teachers. We’re working on it — like what I have promised. But remember that there are millions of teachers,” the President said in a speech Wednesday night in Cagayan de Oro during the oath-taking of newly elected local government officials there.

He also compared the number of policemen and soldiers to teachers, saying: “There are only a few policemen, something like 160 (thousand). There are 130 (thousand) in the military. It’s easier. That is why their salaries have been doubled.”

The President’s Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement earlier this week that Education Secretary Leonor M. Briones reported to the President during the Cabinet meeting Monday that the teachers “are being taken care of.”

“Secretary Briones said that our teachers are being taken care of as they receive several benefits and bonuses on top of [their] minimum salary,” Mr. Panelo said.

In a briefing last week, Mr. Panelo said teachers should be patient because the government needs to find the money to increase their salaries.

“I just received [a message] from Secretary Briones, coming from the Department of Budget and Management, that for every increase of P10,000 for every teacher in this country, it will cost us P150 billion. That is why we appeal to our teachers that since this is a huge amount, medyo haba-habaan ninyo lang ang pasensiya, talagang maghahanap tayo ng pera para sa inyo,” he said.

He also said, “What is I think certain is that the President really wants to increase the salaries of the teachers.”

In a statement last month, reelectionist Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara noted that entry-level public school teachers at present earn a monthly salary of P20,754. He said this amount is “not attractive enough” to attract “qualified and competent” teachers to work at public schools.

“Despite the fact that they are heralded as molders of our children’s future and second parents to our kids, public school teachers receive a basic salary that does not equate to their contribution,” Mr. Angara was quoted as saying.

Mr. Angara filed in 2016 Senate Bill 135 that seeks to upgrade the minimum pay of teachers to “P45,269.”

“Our teachers are considered to be the heart of the educational system. Hence, the government needs to give priority to their welfare and interests,” Mr. Angara also said. — Arjay L. Balinbin