By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
A federation of teachers on Saturday requested that the Department of Education (DepEd) provide assistance to education workers in both public and private sectors amid the escalating coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.
In a letter to DepEd, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines listed the “urgent demands” of teaching and non-teaching staff amid the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine measures implemented by the government. Primarily, the group asked for the “protection and assistance” of DepEd to both public and private school personnel who are struggling during this time.
“It’s no secret that education workers are among the lowest paid professionals in the country [and] many of whom hardly have any take home pay left due to loans incurred for their teaching needs and for their families,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio explained.
“These make them vulnerable amid the current crisis and its severe economic impacts now and in the months to come. [Thus] it is therefore crucial that DepEd ensures the welfare of its people,” Basilio added.
In the letter addressed to Education Secretary Leonor Briones, ACT listed seven (7) demands on behalf of nearly one million DepEd personnel and private school employees.
ACT is urging DepEd to provide (1) clear guidelines on the 30-day grace period for the payment of contributions and loan amortization to GSIS and Private Lending Institutions (PLIs); (2) immediate release of teachers’ 2018 Performance-based Bonus (PBB); (3) a follow up with AO 25 on the granting of 2018 PBB to non-teaching personnel; (4) provision of cash assistance to DepEd’s skeletal workforce; and (5) facilitation of the timely release of private school teachers and employees’ salaries and benefits, including COVID-19-related allowances and government aid; setting up of a medical fund for employees in danger of contracting the disease; and a Php10,000 social amelioration assistance to all DepEd personnel.
The group has also identified possible fund sources for these demands such as DepEd’s disaster response funds and the savings from the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) and from other projects and activities incurred due to the cancellation of classes.
Basilio noted that the demands were formed “through constant consultation with teachers” from most of the regions as well as with private school teachers. The group, through its ACT for Peoples Health campaign, has also been launching a weekly survey to gather teachers’ experiences on the ground as well as the state of their communities amid the lockdown.
“We are now on the third week of the quarantine in Luzon and in various parts of the country,” Basilio said. “As our surveys revealed, many have yet to receive any aid from the government,” he added.
Despite this, Basilio noted that teachers and personnel continue to care for their communities by reporting their situations, calling for support for the poor, launching donation drives and relief operations for frontliners, ensuring the processing of salaries and benefits, conducting educational activities online, and many others. “It’s only humane for the government, through DepEd, to in turn care for our education workers,” he added.
Given this, ACT urged DepEd to “exhaust all measures” in order to immediately act on their listed demand and likewise called on the entire government to “ensure the welfare of all vulnerable sectors during this crisis” – especially as President Duterte has been granted with “immense power and control of resources” to fight the pandemic.