ACT demands transparency, protection amid infection of teacher, staff

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines demanded transparency from the Department of Education (DepEd) on its COVID-19 situation following reports on growing number of cases among its personnel.

In Metro Manila, ACT has so far 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. In other regions, ACT documented two positive cases in Bicol region and at least 19 in Region VII.

Among the cases from the latter, three had passed from the disease.

The group continues to monitor and validate reports from the ground all over the country.

“We are calling on DepEd to divulge timely and accurate report on COVID-19 cases among its personnel, without compromising their rights to privacy. We have the right to know the extent of infection within our ranks, and to demand accountability where it is due. Likewise we denounce some local officials’ attempt to conceal the true conditions of employees and workplaces within their jurisdiction,” detailed ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio.

In light of the alarming reports, ACT pressed DepEd for the immediate implementation of the following health measures for the protection of education workers: health screening and free testing prior to physical reporting; fully subsidized treatment for COVID-19 positive employees; and provision of sick leave benefits to teachers.

“Decisive steps to prevent further spread and respond to the imminent threat of infection among teachers and staff are long overdue. DepEd’s negligence has already cost us the health and even lives of our colleagues. It’s high time that we be given due protection and assistance against the raging pandemic. We demand accountability from the government through concrete actions in favor of our demands,” called Basilio.

A recent survey conducted by ACT revealed that 50% teacher-respondents reported of being compelled to physically report for duty despite surging cases of COVID-19 and the lack of safety and viability measures.

ACT continues to receive complaints from teachers who are made to render service at school and in learners’ communities; some even had to report to schools still being used as isolation or quarantine facilities.

“Many of these teachers potentially acquired the virus in the performance of their jobs, while others may have contracted it elsewhere. It won’t be long before community transmission reaches and spreads in schools and offices. Hence it is paramount that health and safety measures be urgently implemented such as the conduct of health screening, tests on individuals who have been exposed and/or are vulnerable, and guarantee of free treatment for infected personnel. The health crisis, with no end in sight yet, also underscored the need to once and for all grant teachers sick leave benefits,” called Basilio.

The group added that DepEd should take full responsibility over the health and welfare of teaching and non-teaching staff infected now and in the future, as well as extend assistance to families of those who have and will succumb to the disease.

Regardless of how and where they got the virus, ACT urged DepEd to respond to its constituents’ needs as part of the agency’s contribution to the country’s fight against COVID-19.

“We can’t stress this enough—hindi kami mga alay na itataya ng DepEd para sa makitid nitong pananaw sa kanyang mandato. We are teachers and public servants sincere in our commitment to education that empowers the youth and responds to the needs of the country. We are entitled to utmost protection from the government as we perform a vital service in the midst of this crisis. Employ the needed preventive measures and secure the health needs of education workers,” demanded Basilio.

ACT closed by adding their call on DepEd to remedy its health and safety guidelines for basic education schools and offices, as well as secure funding from the national government to warrant school safety and protection of its huge workforce.