LEGAZPI CITY, November 8, 2017 – Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones denied charges of neglect of schools serving indigenous peoples (IP) in an address to more than 300 DepEd regional and division officials, local government unit (LGU) delegates, and non-government organization (NGO) stakeholders present in the 2017 National Literacy Conference at the Oriental Legazpi Hotel, Albay.
Briones noted that as early as 2011, DepEd has issued a number of policies on the operationalization of the rights of IP learners (DepEd Order No. (DO) 62, s. 2011; DO 21, s. 2014; DO 32, s. 2015; and DO 50, s. 2015). At the height of the Marawi siege, firefights near schools in Mankayan Benguet, and takeover of a school in Cotabato, DepEd reiterated the necessity of adhering to DO 44, s. 2005, or the Declaration of Schools as Zones of Peace. Schools were instructed to post the official tarpaulin as part of a nationwide awareness campaign.
“DepEd maintains its position that schools and all learning institutions are zones of peace where students and teaching personnel must feel secure in their pursuit of quality basic education,” Briones said.
“We have been actively campaigning for the Philippines to sign the Safe Schools Declaration (SSD) and the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict,” she added.
The SSD was crafted and developed through consultations among various states as “an inter-governmental political commitment that provides countries the opportunity to express support for protecting students, teachers, schools, and universities from attack during times of armed conflict; the importance of the continuation of education during armed conflict; and the implementation of concrete measures to deter the military use in schools.”
Even before yesterday’s rally, regional directors have been meeting with IP schools in Mindanao to resolve the problem of recognition. No less than the Undersecretary for Legal Affairs, Atty. Alberto Muyot, is in Mindanao for a series of dialogues in regard to securing permits of schools with IP learners.
Briones noted that the issue of teachers’ debts is a decades-old drama starring the teachers as borrowers, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and private lending institutions (PLIs) as lenders, and the DepEd, which deducts loan payments authorized by teachers to be paid to GSIS and PLIs.
She further noted that of these four actors, the teacher/borrower who spends the borrowed money, and the GSIS and PLIs who earn interest benefit from the borrowing activity, DepEd benefits the least. It merely deducts loan payments on the basis of authorizations issued by the teacher/borrower.
Briones reiterated that the DepEd is exploring measures that will enable teaching and non-teaching personnel to manage their finances to prepare for a better future. These are reduction of interest rates on loans through the expansion of the DepEd Provident Fund and coordination with GSIS on loan buyouts, which will restructure an employee-borrower’s PLI loans. GSIS will offer lower interest rates on a longer payment term.
The damage of overborrowing on lives of teachers and their families has been going on for years and it can no longer continue. In 2016 alone, 26,000 teachers could not avail of their retirement benefits due to unpaid loans. DepEd has initiated intensive financial literacy courses to teachers.
“Two new laws (Republic Act No. (RA) 10679 and RA 10922) mandate us to teach financial literacy to students. But I think, if you want to teach financial literacy to students, you have to start with the teachers,” Briones concluded.