The Department of Education (DepEd) on Tuesday, April 6, confirmed the reported deaths of five personnel in Isabela but clarified that this incident is not related to their work or to the agency.
“We are saddened by this because a death is always a loss of life,” Education Secretary Leonor Briones told the Manila Bulletin in a phone interview. “But we have to be accurate, we have to tell the truth that this is not related to DepEd,” she added.
Briones issued this clarification following the statement issued by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) on Tuesday afternoon alleging that “their deaths and the jarring effects of infection surges to education continuity expose the frailty of the government’s ill-prepared distance learning program in the context of the Duterte administration’s equally disastrous pandemic response.”
In a separate statement issued by DepEd on Tuesday night, the agency also addressed the reported coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-linked deaths of five educators in the Schools Division Office (SDO) of Isabela due to the recent surge of cases in the province.
“Based on our initial investigation and contact tracing, the cases were acquired thru community transmission outside the school premises and are not work related,” DepEd said.
As it offered its “sincere condolences to the bereaved families and loved ones of our fellow DepEd workers,” the agency assured that the SDO Isabela is already in contact with the “grieving families to provide urgent assistance and to facilitate the expeditious release of their benefits.”
In order to prevent any further transmission of the disease, DepEd explained that the field “office has coordinated with the local government unit for extensive contact tracing and quarantine procedures.”
DepEd noted that the SDO also ordered “strict implementation of alternative work arrangements and suspension of all face-to-face activities in schools and offices in critical areas” in the province.
“In our commitment to deliver quality education, we reiterate to our field officials that the health and safety of our hardworking teachers and personnel is and should always remain the priority amidst these uncertain times,” DepEd said.
Due to the “unfortunate” incident, DepEd also reminded its field offices to “always adhere to the guidelines and required health standards on work and office arrangements” set by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), the Department of Health (DOH), and the Civil Service Commission (CSC).