Sunday, January 18, 2009

A generous man and his <1 peso retirement pay

I got the email about University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman retired janitor Meliton Zamora getting 0.92 pesos as his retirement pay. I have known Zamora aka Mang Milton since he swept the floors whilst singing early in the morning before my 7:00 AM English 1 class. However some students had a closer relationship (financially) since he guaranteed their loans with the student loan board.

Even with its then low fees, students had a hard time making ends meet since money was needed to pay for paper, food, school supplies and dorm fees. In a sense the socialized tuition fee scheme was meant to answer this but it could never do so completely.

As for student loans, one of the first things that a newly hired prof or instructor learns is NOT TO GUARANTEE student loans since students rarely if ever pay for these. Even if the loans are quite small, when retirement time comes, the process of clearing accountabilities with the university becomes a tedious process. One may have his/her retirement benefits delayed for a year or more because of these. The Inquirer has reported the whole story.

It wasn't the unpaid loans that were deducted from Zamora's pay but the unaccounted 501 sick leave credits that the university says he all used up. In the civil service these leave credits can be converted to cash upon separation from the service.

But I am heartened about the student loans he guaranteed. Most were paid. His reason why he guaranteed those loans is that it was a payback for a professor that was kind to him. It seems he was able to help many students, who now are successful in the professions. The students threw a thank you party for him with the aim of providing financial help.

This puts to shame the profs attitudes of not guaranteeing student loans. But with UP's 21K a sem fees, expect more requests for student loans as the economy gets worse.

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