By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
A teachers’ federation on Tuesday accused the Department of Education (DepEd) of “violating” its own directive on the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) after allowing hundreds of learners to attend an anti-drug culmination activity in a public school in Quezon City.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines alleged that DepEd “broke” its own order in the name of the Duterte administration’s drug war and counterinsurgency.
ACT said the Philippine National Police (PNP) held an anti-drug culmination activity for nearly a thousand Grade 9 students in Ramon Magsaysay High School, Quezon City on Monday (Feb. 10) with DepEd Undersecretary Tonisito Umali as guest of honor and speaker.
The event came days after DepEd’s Task Force nCoV released a memorandum suspending all school activities involving learners as a precautionary measure against the possible spread of the 2019-nCoV ARD. DepEd also enjoined students and teachers to avoid “crowded places” in an effort to reduce the risk of infection.
“How was the PNP activity permitted with no less than a DepEd top official as its guest and speaker, when even flag ceremonies have been banned?” asked ACT National Chairperson Joselyn Martinez. “Is this sham and violent drug war more important than the health of our students?”
Martinez also slammed the DepEd for allegedly “exposing students to health risks”. ACT also argued that its own activities – which do not even involve students such as the Fil-Am War forum for AralingPanlipunan teachers, ACT-NCR Union’s regional council meeting, and a dialogue between ACT-NCR Union and DepEd NCR’s Regional Director – have been suspended since the issuance of the DepEd’s memo on 2019-nCoV ARD.
ACT noted that the “selective application of the memorandum makes it seem as though the order is being used as a weapon to forward Duterte’s rabid repression campaign.” The group also demanded that DepEd “explain its implementation of the said memorandum as well as its permission of the PNP’s anti-drug campaign activity.”
Martinez alleged that Duterte’s drug war “has killed thousands of poor Filipinos who were not given any chance at due process” so “this is not the kind of skewed justice we want our students to learn.”
She added that schools should not allow “the youth to learn to condone fascism in any way, hence we condemn DepEd’s flagrant support to such campaign.”
DepEd says such activity is ‘allowed’
As a response, DepEd issued a clarification to the Manila Bulletin noting that such activity is “allowed” since it was an in-campus congregation with no students coming from other schools as attendees.
Based on DepEd Memorandum No. 15, s. 2020 or the First Set of Policy Directives of the DepEd Task Force on nCoV, Undersecretary for Administration Alain Pascua said that such activity is allowed as long as the measures for the prevention and control of the 2019-NCOV ARD in basic education schools and offices “were observed.”
In particular, Pascua noted Letter D, Section 2 of the DM 015. s. 2020, which states that “all personnel and learners exhibiting respiratory infections must not attend activities that involve a congregation of learners within the school.”
DepEd also reiterated that based on the 2019-nCoV directives it has issued, learners are encouraged to avoid crowded places “outside the school” – among others – to minimize exposure to risks associated with the 2019-nCoV ARD.
Ban such activities with or without nCoV
ACT said the activity is part of the Duterte administration’s Kabataan Kontra-Droga at Terorismo (KKDT) campaign which was launched in 2019 and has since gone around schools to conduct various seminars and fora.