(File PNA photo)

MANILA – The Department of Education (DepEd) was only following orders from the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) against the coronavirus disease 2019 when it ordered teachers to physically report back for work amid the global pandemic.

The DepEd made the pronouncement following calls from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Philippines (ACT) to scrap Department Order 29, Series of 2022, which requires teachers to physically return to teaching in classrooms despite challenges like “poor internet connectivity” and “the increasing Covid-19 threat.”

The group criticized the department on Monday for its “lack of consultation” with affected teachers and for requiring physical attendance from May 2 to 13, when classes would be suspended so teachers could perform their election-related duties.

DepEd Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla insisted that although they are not against providing teachers with “flexible” work arrangements, the national government and the CSC have the last say, respectively, on the alert level classifications and the work arrangements for government employees.

“Unfortunately, our teachers are government workers as well, and as a government agency, isa lang po ang nagre-release ng aming (we only one [office] releasing our) HR policy, si Civil Service Commission, and the Civil Service Commission has the rules on time in and time out, if they will not do that, mako-COA (Commission on Audit) po kami, mao-audit po kami sa pagpapa-sweldo sa mga empleyado ng gobyerno na walang time in and time out (we will be audited, our payroll will be audited for those employees without time in and time out),” she said.

Sevilla added that all government employees are now compelled to report for work physically, according to the executive order, unless the COA provides allowances for flexible work arrangements despite eased restrictions.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said Covid-19 threats have been properly assessed by the Department of Health.

“We are an administrative institution as well. We have a PHP650-billion budget over a million people. Sabi nga nila (As they say), I’m like a mother hen sitting on PHP650-million eggs… So we have our accountabilities. We are not like the private sector. The private sector is ruled by the policies of their boards. Pero kami (But), we are ruled by national policy,” she said.

The DepEd, meanwhile, acknowledged the challenges on internet connectivity for blended learning, saying they should be better resolved now than later. (PNA)