THE Department of Education (DepEd) reminds schools to keep graduation rites solemn.

“Graduation should be solemn so that students can actively participate regardless if their parents are financially capable or not,” said DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus in an interview with reporters Friday.

He said graduation rites should not be held outside the campus if there is enough space inside.

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He also appealed to politicians to follow Commission on Elections (Comelec) rules in sparing schools, government offices and churches from their campaign materials.

“We would like to make our schools a neutral zone,” he said.

He said that although there is no general rule prohibiting schools from inviting politicians as guest speakers during graduation ceremonies, Lapus said the general rule is to make the graduation rites solemn and memorable for students.

Politicians who will be invited, he said should respect the graduation rites and refrain from campaigning.

“They should talk in the spirit of graduation. We don’t want campaigns, more so attacks on other people because this brings negative energy to the students,” Lapus said.

He said parents should also be observant.

“Sinasabi ko po lamang na iyang ganyang nakikita sa ating paaralan ay huwag na nating iboto (Let’s not vote for candidates who campaign during graduations),” he said.

First batch

Lapus was in Cebu with President Arroyo last Friday to recognize the first batch of teacher-trainee graduates of Globe Telecommunications’ Global Filipino Teachers Program (GFT).

During the event, Arroyo announced another increase in the teacher’s wage to take effect in June.

Lapus said that the nationwide salary increase was part of the three-phase program approved last year.

“This is the second time. The amount is the same as last year’s increase or more than P1,000 per teacher,” he said.

The increase, Lapus said, has caught the attention of private schools.

“They are now beginning to raise concerns that their teachers are lagging behind the pubic school teachers. That’s why there are many private school teachers moving to public schools,” Lapus said.

With the coming elections, Lapus said at least 600,000 teacher voters might be disenfranchised if the Comelec will not consider the concerns raised by teachers who served in previous elections.

On duty

“Dati rati ang ating mga guro lahat nagsisilbi ngayon less than one-half nalang ang magagamit and they must now vote where there are registered as voters. Pero they have not voted there for more than two years because they are voting in polling places where they are on duty,” Lapus said.

He said they have sent a letter to the Comelec en banc last Tuesday.

“It will be ironic if these teachers will be removed from the list after they have performed patriotic duty,” he said.

“It would also be impractical for the teachers serving in towns to go to their own place just to vote,” he said.

Lapus said they requested the Comelec to restore the teachers who have served in the previous elections in the voters’ list and allow them to vote in the place they are serving.