The central office of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Pasig City will be temporarily closed from August 19 to August 23.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, DepEd said its central office will undergo a “complex-wide disinfection and contact tracing activity” during the period of closure.
The DepEd assured the public that its services will continue and will remain “functional without any interruption” since its personnel will be on a work-from-home arrangement.
As for “financial obligations, salaries, and benefits” of all DepEd teaching and non-teaching personnel, the department assured that it is already being processed and will be “promptly paid.”
“Virtual productivity tools will be consistently utilized for official and work-related matters,” the DepEd added.
The DepEd also reminded its personnel and the public to “strictly observe required health protocols for everyone's safety.”
Pressed to provide additional information, DepEd Public Affairs Service (PAS) said that it is still coordinating with the “offices concerned” and “awaiting for clearance” to release more details on the CO lockdown.
While it has cited the reason for the lockdown, DepEd has yet to confirm if there are COVID-19 cases in the CO. Since March, DepEd has stopped releasing official figures on the number of DepEd personnel - both teaching and non-teaching - who have contracted COVID-19 despite repeated requests. The agency noted that official figures will be released after further verification from concerned regions.
DepEd said that it will hold a press conference on Monday, August 24, to shed light on the COVID-19 situation within the agency. The DepEd COVID-19 Task Force and its Disaster Risk Reduction Management System (DRRMS) are expected to release official figures on the number of COVID-19 infected personnel as well as the efforts of the agency in responding to the pandemic - among others.
Citing its own data as of August 14, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines told the Manila Bulletin that it has recorded at least 131 DepEd personnel who contracted COVID-19 including a finance officer.
ACT has been urging DepEd to be transparent on the number of COVID-19 cases among its personnel as the numbers of infected teaching and non-teaching staff continue to increase “with others already succumbing to the disease.”
“DepEd has yet to release a timely and comprehensive report on the total number of cases within its agency as well as its efforts to stem the spread and assist those already infected,” ACT said.
“We are calling on DepEd to divulge timely and accurate reports on COVID-19 cases among its personnel, without compromising their rights to privacy,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said. “We have the right to know the extent of infection within our ranks, and to demand accountability where it is due,” he added.
As of July 30, ACT said that in Metro Manila alone, it has received reports of infected teachers with at least 10 cases coming from Manila, six from Quezon City, five from Malabon, and three from Navotas.
“Three of whom, belonging to the divisions of Manila, Quezon City, and Navotas, had been fatally hit by the virus according to reports,” ACT said.
In other regions, ACT also documented two positive cases in the Bicol region and at least 19 in Region VII.
“Among the cases from the latter, three had passed from the disease,” the group said. “We continue to monitor and validate reports from the ground all over the country."
The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) has also been requesting DepEd to release updated information on the number of personnel who contracted the disease. Citing data from DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan, TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basaa that as of Aug. 16, the agency has “recorded 669 cases of COVID-19” and out of this number, “360 have recovered and 21 have died.”