Group hits looming lay-offs in education department

“There is no truth to the claim of the government that these employees or their positions are not needed because the education sector is evidently understaffed right now.” – Benjamin Valbuena, ACT

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – “A massive lay-off will be President Aquino’s Christmas gift to DepEd employees,” said ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio in a statement sent to Bulatlat.com.

The education department issued on Dec. 3 its Order No. 23 series of 2013, the “Approval and Implementation of the 2013 Rationalization Program,” which will trim down the largest department in the government.

The implementation of the rationalization plan is mandated by Executive Order 366, which was signed by former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2004. Its goal is to streamline government expenses for personnel services.

“This order resulted in massive displacement in other government agencies already. For the education department, it will strike down employees in the Central Office down to the Regional and Division Offices,” said Benjie Valbuena, national president of Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT). The group stormed the DepEd Central Office last Monday, Dec. 16 to protest the implementation of the rationalization plan.

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Tinio said the rationalization plan requires DepEd to come up with a new staffing pattern for its central, regional, and division offices, with less or equal positions than the current roster. Positions in excess of the new roster will be declared non-vital or redundant.

Valbuena said the rationalization plan will immediately displace all DepEds contractual, casual and even those who are under the job order scheme by Dec. 31, while regular employees will have to choose between early retirement/separation or stay in the government service and have their permanent status converted into co-terminus with the incumbent status. This means that when the appointment is co-existent with the appointee, the position will be abolished after the appointee resigns, retires or is terminated from the service.

Valbuena also added that although the order exempted non-teaching personnel in the district and school levels, data obtained from the Quezon City Division, for one, shows that even employees in the school level will also be affected by the rationalization plan where at least 300 personnel will be laid off.

“This is alarming since security personnel are the ones handling security matters in the schools and firing them will compromise the security most especially of the students,” Valbuena pointed out.

The rationalization plan is a blatant attack on the security of tenure of rank and file employees, said Valbuena. “There is no truth to the claim of the government that these employees or their positions are not needed because the education sector is evidently understaffed right now. The education sector even needs more. If this is done to streamline the expenses of the executive branch, why don’t they stop from stealing the people’s money?”

Tinio meanwhile questioned the hurried implementation of the plan, which DBM approved on Nov. 15. He said employees from several divisions have that complained they were not even fully apprised of what will happen before being told of getting the axe. Under the implementing rules as of Dec. 15, all casuals and contractuals are effectively fired with the abolition of their positions, except those qualified to retire. Regulars only have until Jan. 15, 2014 to choose either co-terminus with the incumbent status or early retirement.

Tinio also expressed concern over the fate of the affected employees devastated by typhoon Yolanda and those who were also affected in the Zamboanga stand-off.

“This hasty implementation will not help them, especially since it is Christmas. This is just another disaster for all employees most specially those who were devastated by typhoon Yolanda and also those who were affected by the stand-off in Zamboanga.”

At the minimum, Tinio urged Education Secretary Armin Luistro to issue a moratorium against the rationalization plan to give time to the affected employees to adjust.

“But scrapping the plan is Bro. Armin’s most humane course, as a massive lay-off is contrary to the sector’s demand for higher salaries, security of tenure, and additional positions.”He added that the massive lay-off plan will only pave the way for contractualization of some services necessary to education. He warned it will result to more work for teachers.

Meanwhile, Valbuena blamed the government’s subservience to the dictates of imperialists and its institutions like that of IMF-World Bank. “Another reason for this rationalization plan is the government’s subservience to the dictates of foreign imperialists like that of IMF-World Bank which even uses this mechanism as a precondition before President Aquino’s regime will be allowed to loan money again.”

“The IMF-World Bank wanted to make sure that government’s expenses be streamlined so that it will be in a better position to pay its loans. And this present government does so as dictated upon it without considering the ill effects of the said plan to thousands of employees nationwide. The effect is even double for those in the Visayan regions who are yet to stand from the devastation caused by Yolanda and the Aquino government’s inutile response.”

Valbuena said this rationalization plan is a not a good gift to receive this Christmas. “Is this the way a good Christian celebrates Christmas?” he said addressing Sec. Luistro. The group demanded that the rationalization plan be scrapped and for the department to immediately implement a moratorium on the planned massive lay off of non-teaching personnel.

“Non-teaching personnel are humans that need to be treated justly and no one deserves to be given this kind of agony especially during the Christmas season.” ()

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