Tiffany McLellan of CUPE 4600 recently interviewed Mabelle Desamito Caboboy, an executive member of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in the Philippines. Tiffany and Mabelle spoke in Davao City, Mindanao, right before the commencement of the International Conference on People’s Rights in July 2016. ACT is a CUPE National Global Justice Fund partner. 

Nearly 80 per cent of all educators in the Philippines are women, and ACT ensures that 70 per cent of their executive board is composed of women.

• How long have you been a member of ACT? What position do you hold?

I have been a member of ACT since 2001 when I was still a student at the University of the Philippines Diliman. I wear many hats within the union now. Currently, I am the Vice President of the Quezon City Public School Teachers’ Association. This is my second term. Concurrent to this, I am also the Vice President to ACT National Capital Region, Quezon City Chapter. Lastly, I am the Deputy Secretary General of ACT Philippines. I was appointed by the National Council to be the Deputy Secretary General this past June 2016.

• What are the top issues your members face?

The salary increase for teaching and non-teaching personnel is a major issue, and has been for some time. Second, we focus on the transfer of the local supplemental allowance of Quezon City teaching and non-teaching personnel from the Land Bank, a government bank, to the privately own BPI-Globe Banko. This arrangement allows for a private bank to profit from public funds. I would say another big issue is the K-12 reformulation of the public school curriculum. ACT also cares deeply about the struggles faced by the indigenous peoples in Mindanao, known as the Lumad people.

• Why did ACT join the Lumad struggle? How does ACT express its solidarity with Lumad communities?

ACT joined the Lumad struggle because there were schools which were closed and encamped by the military, which is unconstitutional. Students have suffered from harassment since 2005 and as a consequence have been evacuated from their communities on a regular basis. So, because of this, we are one of the convenors of the Save Our Schools (SOS) network and campaign. This campaign aims to end the military occupation of Lumad schools, bring the Lumad people back to their ancestral homeland, re-build their schools, and let them continue with their education. The SOS network helped in sourcing funds to purchase instructional school materials during the evacuation in September 2015.

• What does international union solidarity mean to you, and for ACT more generally?

It means that unions here in the Philippines are one and in solidarity with other teachers and trade unions around the world. We would like to be in solidarity in fighting imperialism, the commercialization and privatization of education, and making sure that students are given their basic right to education no matter where they are in the world, and to uphold teachers’ right to organize and unionize.