THE Department of Education (DepEd) in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm), which is under a new leadership, has kicked off a campaign against illegal contributions from teachers’ pay checks in the region.

The campaign started in the province of Lanao del Sur, where the illegal scheme was reported rampant.

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Armm is composed of the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan, aside from Lanao del Sur.

Newly-installed DepEd-Armm Secretary Hamid Barra personally distributed last Saturday the January pay checks to more than 10,000 teachers from the five schools divisions of Lanao del Sur.

Barra, who distributed the checks during his sixth day in office, said he was directed by acting Armm Governor Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong to “make sure that no teacher will go home without his paycheck.”

The inter-personal distribution of checks in Lanao del Sur was first of its kind designed to minimize if not eliminate cases of illegal “contributions” allegedly exacted by local education officials from as much as P1,700 each teacher per month.

Barra said the Adiong administration is seriously committed to give what is due to teachers.

“We mean business this time,” Barra said.

He said the January pay checks of teachers in Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi were distributed on time through the “usual process” at the division levels.

DepEd-Armm has more than 22,000 personnel across the region and 90 percent of them are teachers.

Barra said he accepted his appointment in the DepEd-Armm on condition he could introduce drastic reforms in the department, which Adiong has approved.

“He (Adiong) also wants reforms in DepEd-ARMM. We have the same concern,” Barra said.

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno installed Adiong as acting governor last December 11 following the detention of Regional Governor Zaldy Ampatuan in connection with the November 23 massacre in Maguindanao, as well as on the heels of reports that teacher-applicants were exacted P100,000 to P150,000 each to get appointed.

Barra said his agency will soon establish a hot line wherein teachers and stakeholders could convey their concerns and suggestions through text messages or call.

Surprise visits will be conducted to inspect physical facilities of schools in the region and to hold meetings with school heads to hear their problems and concerns, Barra said.

He said a management audit will also be conducted to assess the teachers’ conformity with the standing rules and regulation of the department, and the finance and personnel of the school or office will also be verified.

He also warned fixers in the department that they will be sanctioned if proven they are involved in the “selling of appointments.”

“There will be no sale of items. For those who passed the (licensure) examination, give them what they deserved. Items are not for sale,” Barra said.

He called on the more than 20,000 teachers all over the region to do their job and be committed to the profession.

“We are here to work as a team, to work for the future of our children. This is for their education,” Barra said.

He added that he is determined to implement reforms based on his four core values: knowledge, faith, virtue and practice. (Bong Garcia)