EVEN before the controversial Department of Education (DepEd) Order 49 was released, teachers have long been prohibited from liking, commenting and posting negative issues on social media concerning the Department.

This according to officials of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Cebu Chapter during an interview with SunStar Cebu on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022.

Antonia Maamo-Lim, ACT Cebu Chapter president, said even before the order’s issuance, many teachers who chose to coordinate with union groups in addressing their unresolved concerns were called out by their respective DepEd superintendents.

“They cannot even like a social media post about abuse and corruption within the department (DepEd). If so, they would be called out by their principals,” said Lim.

She said issues within the education sector must be exposed, not to criticize the agency, but for DepEd to focus on solving the core problems in education.

Professionalism

Under the new issuance, DepEd personnel are mandated to treat colleagues and learners with the “highest degree of professionalism.” Educators were also told to “avoid relationships, interaction, and communication, including following social media with learners” outside the school setting.

Lim said the order could create a gap between students and their teachers that might affect their learning process, as teachers are somewhat deprived of interacting with them on social media.

“After class hours, you can’t text or message your students. What if the child has a problem? For example, they would say that they (students) could not go to school because they have a fever; shall we say, please refer to DepEd Order 49?” asked Lim.

For his part, Cristopher Abrajano, ACT Cebu Chapter vice president, said there is really no need to implement the order as it only curtails the teachers’ “freedom of expression.”

Abrajano said venting out on social media is the teachers’ last resort when they think they have done everything bureaucratic, and yet none of their concerns have been addressed by the education heads.

“Teachers have this culture in that they endure all their concerns as much as they can,” said Abrajano.

He said DepEd personnel have become “robots” being told what to do and what not to do, compromising their freedom to express their opinion.

“As long as their (teachers) feeling is true and they don’t mean to harm the department, if we hide all those problems, they will compound, and we can’t solve them anymore,” said Abrajano in Bisaya.

“But if the problems come out slowly, and we slowly address the issues and concerns that have stained the department’s name, at least we will have a few future problems,” he added.

Proper channels

Earlier, DepEd spokesman Michael Poa clarified that the recent directive, which asks teachers and employees not to “disparage” the agency, does not seek to curtail their freedom of expression and speech but only to promote professionalism among their ranks.

He said if the teachers have grievances, the agency has existing mechanisms where they can raise their issues, and constructive criticisms are not prohibited.

In an interview with SunStar Cebu on Thursday, November 24, DepEd-Central Visayas Director Salustiano Jimenez denied allegations that teachers had been deprived communication with union groups to address their problems. He said they only advised teachers to pen their concerns to the right office.

“It’s not calling up for what, but possibly a teacher or a union officer will chat or call me and report some alleged irregularities in the field. I will let the principal or SDS call the concerned on where we can help or assist and correct the alleged irregularities,” Jimenez explained.

“It is best if they go straight to me to address the issue. But those who posted their concerns on social media end up going somewhere or going to other people who can’t solve their problem. That’s why we need to implement professionalism in our actions, especially DepEd personnel,” he added.