Sara to teachers: draw the line with students

Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte reminded teachers to draw the line and practice professionalism in dealing with their students.

The statement, which became controversial, was delivered by Duterte during the launch of the Child Protection Unit (CPU) website and the Learner Telesafe Contact Center national hotline during the culmination of the 30th National Children’s Month.

In a statement shared by the Office of the Vice President (OVP), Duterte said that upon assuming her role as the Education Secretary in June this year, not only did she have to think of solutions to the problems that had hounded the department for years, but also had to “deal with disturbing and painful stories about learners being victims of sexual abuse.”

“Some cases were classic examples of sexual grooming — a predatory activity primarily by adult offenders who use their position, resources, charm, and influence to carry out their plan against a child or another vulnerable adult,” it said.

This is in line with the DepEd Order No. 49, s. 2022 entitled “Promotion of Professionalism in the Implementation and Delivery of Basic Education Programs and Services” to promote effective and efficient policies and programs, which she signed.

In the said order, DepEd school officials and employees were ordered to “avoid relationships, interaction, and communication, including following social media with learners outside of the school setting, except if they are relatives.”

“Some do not understand my position with regard to professionalism. But truly, if you are a teacher, you have no business drinking alcohol with your students. And if you are a teacher and you are attracted to a student you are drinking with, that is preliminaries to what you want to do to the child. Kaya lagi kong sinasabi talaga sa mga teachers na you should be professional dahil you are dispensing service to these students who are your clients, and therefore you have to be unbiased and you have to be a role model to them,” she added.

Rep. France Castro of ACT Teachers reportedly expressed concern that the new directive could bar teachers and employees from exercising their rights to air grievances. He was also reported stressing that some of the provisions of DO No. 49 “expands and even exceeds” the limits set in the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and the Philippine Teachers Professionalization Act of 1994.

Meanwhile, Department of Education 11 spokesperson Jenielito “Dodong” Atillo clarified that the Vice President “just wanted teachers to focus more on important things related to the learnings of the students” amid the controversy surrounding DO.

“Isa pud niana katong mga magtutudlo should also be given an opportunity to mend and tend for their respective activities kay kining mga magtutudlo nato while they are surrogate parents they also have their very own private lives that they have to tend and mend to mao ng importante ug nakita namo ang importansya niining maong gipagawas nga DO 49,” Atillo said.

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