By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
While inviting candidates to graduations is not prohibited, the Department of Education (DepEd) on Tuesday urged schools not to invite those who are running for government positions in the upcoming May 2019 midterm elections.
Issuing a statement, DepEd said that that “inviting candidates to graduations is not prohibited per se, but it is highly discouraged this election season because it may be misinterpreted as endorsement of candidate by our principals and teachers.”
However, DepEd clarified that “if invitation and/or attendance of a candidate is supported by valid and compelling reason, our officials are warned that this cannot degenerate into an endorsement or solicitation of votes.”
Given this case, DepEd reminded that “the graduation speaker should stick to theme, and not bring campaign materials or paraphernalia.” DepEd also reiterated that the “acts of electioneering and partisan politics” have been enumerated in department memorandum issued earlier. Thus, “all officers and employees of DepEd are enjoined to be guided accordingly.”
Earlier, Education Secretary Leonor Briones reminded all school officials on the “strict compliance” with the DepEd Order 48 series of 2018 entitled “Prohibition of Electioneering and Partisan Political Activity.” She also cautioned all officials, teaching and non-teaching personnel of the agency against electioneering and engaging in any partisan political activity, and reminded them to strictly observe the periods of certain prohibited acts in connection with the 2019 mid-term polls.
“The Constitution mandates that no officer or employee in the civil service shall engage, directly or indirectly, in any electioneering or partisan political campaign,” Briones said. “The same applies to our officials, teachers, and employees [thus], DepEd must maintain its focus on non-partisan public service and remain a beacon of integrity in these times,” she added.
Based on DO No. 48 s. of 2018, DepEd has identified activities regarded as partisan political activities, in accordance with existing rules and regulations promulgated by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The prohibited activities include but are not limited to: forming organizations, associations, clubs, committees, or other groups of persons for the purpose of soliciting votes and/or undertaking any campaign for or against a candidate/party; making speeches, announcements, or commentaries, or holding interviews for or against the election of any candidate or party for public office; and publishing, displaying, or distributing campaign literature, or materials designed to support or oppose the election of any candidate or party.
DepEd also noted that other activities prohibited include receiving any contributions for political purposes, either directly or indirectly; wearing of t-shirts or pins, caps or any other similar election paraphernalia bearing the names of the candidates or political party except as authorized by Comelec; being a watcher for a political party or candidate during the election; and utilizing government resources such as personnel, including job order or contract of service hires, time, and properties for political purposes.
Briones also emphasized that DepEd officials are also “prohibited from using their position of authority to influence teaching and/or non-teaching personnel under their supervision of jurisdiction to support any preferred candidate or political party.”
Both public and private elementary and secondary schools nationwide have been constantly reminded by DepEd to ensure that the end of school year rites will not be used as a venue for politicking or electioneering.
“We keep on reminding our DepEd officials and personnel that graduation or moving-up ceremonies should not be used as a political forum,” Briones said. “Let’s maintain the solemnity of this ceremony focusing on the achievement of our learners and their parents and the hard work of our teachers,” she added.
In the DepEd Order No. 2 series of 2019 or the School Year 2018-2019 K to 12 Basic Education Program End of School Year (EOSY) Rites, Briones emphasized that the gradation and moving up or completion ceremony “shall be conducted in an appropriate solemn ceremony befitting the learners and their parents and shall not be used as a political forum.”