The principal of a public school in a province in northern Luzon allegedly asked newly-hired teachers to pay P50,000 each.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Licensed teachers Athena, Vanessa and Elena (not their real names) came all the way from Northern Luzon to expose their school principal who allegedly asked for money in exchange for being granted teaching items or permanent positions.
With their faces covered, the three teachers from Pangasinan province, north of Luzon island, told their stories before the media in a press conference in Quezon City last August 4. The teachers asked not to be named, as well as the principal and the school, because the investigation being conducted by the Department of Education Region 1 Division of City Schools is still ongoing.
In April 2012, the three teachers applied for teaching positions in the said public school. They resigned from the private schools where they used to teach and obtained their requirements.
“I received a call only last April of this year by the head teacher of our school. I was told to report to work,” Vanessa told Bulatlat.com in an interview. She was also told to prepare her papers.
Like Vanessa, Elena and Athena and another teacher Roma also received a call and were also told to report to work in May. After being interviewed by the principal, the teachers volunteered to participate in the Brigada Eskwela or school clean up activities in preparation for school year 2013 to 2014.
“It was already the last week of May when we noticed that the school principal has not asked us to submit our papers. Then the principal talked to us and asked us to pay P50,000 ($1,132) each to process our papers. He said he would talk with the two master teachers to take care of the processing of our papers,” Vanessa said.
Athena said the school principal asked her to buy a La Germania gas range. “The principal told me that the gas range is for the school and I can use it in my teaching. But I do not teach a cooking class. How can I use that?” She suspects that the gas range was for the principal’s daughter who was also newly hired in the same school and would teach cooking.
The teachers had no money to shell out for the “processing” of their papers. They had to acquire loans to produce the said amount. Elena was able to give P40,000 ($913.97). “I was able to loan P50,000 ($1,132) from my relatives. I gave P40,000 ($913.97) to the principal and I spent the remaining P10,000 ($228.49) for my child’s needs in school.” She felt she had no other choice but to agree to the principal’s demand. “I was getting frustrated back then and I wanted my papers to be processed so that my tenure would be secured.”
Athena was only able to give P1,000 ($22.85). “I just gave birth; my husband was new in his job. We really have no money to shell out,” she said. “I was already handing my papers to the principal but he did not accept it and asked for the gas range. When I gave the P1,000 ($22.85), he finally accepted my papers. “
Vanessa was only able to produce P10,000 ($228.49), which she loaned from a loan shark. “My father just died back then. I am the head of the family now and I support my mother’s health maintenance.”
“We were really dismayed. This caused us emotional distress. All we know is that once the principal gets our papers he or she will just submit it to the national office of the Department of Education,” Elena said.
One of the teachers said cases were filed against the principal twice before but nothing happened. “It seems that this principal has connections with the higher ups. He always gets away with his wrong doings,” she said.
When the teachers filed a complaint before the Division of City Schools, the principal started harassing them.
Last June, the principal tried to force Elena, Vanessa and Roma to sign an affidavit stating that they were not made to pay for the processing. “They brought us somewhere. When we arrived there, the affidavits were ready and a lawyer was there. They wanted us to sign the affidavits but we refused. We said we did not have with us our Identification cards and licenses. The principal told us to get it and to return to sign the affidavits; we never came back. We hid somewhere just to make him stop bothering us,” said Elena.
That was a Friday, said Elena, and they were not able to report to work the following Monday because they were in hiding. They just found out that the principal filed a case of negligence of duty against them. “We never intended to neglect our duty,” said Elena.
In a separate instance, Athena was also forced to sign an affidavit. “They forced me to sign the affidavit. I was alone at that time and I could not do anything.” But she made another affidavit stating that she was forced to sign the said document.
“The principal is in cahoots with the two master teachers in trying to derail the investigation of the Division office by forcing us to make false statements,” said Vanessa.
Later, the principal once again attempted to make the teachers sign affidavits. “A teacher fetched us from the school and drove us to face an official of the DepEd [Department of Education] where a lawyer was waiting. But once again, we managed to escape,” Vanessa said.
Even their families were not spared. Athena said the principal told her in-laws, “If not for him I would not have a job.”
These incidents made them more determined to file a case against the said principal.
The said principal was also allegedly involved in another corruption case. He allegedly pocketed the cash prize won by students amounting to P50,000 ($1,132) and P20,000 ($453). The students won in a street dance competition last February during the town fiesta.
“The principal held a meeting with the students without my knowledge. According to the students, the principal made them sign a paper and told them that if someone asks they should reply that they received P500 ($11.33) each. I asked some of the students if they really received P500 ($11.33) and they said no. That is why I sent an inquiry letter to the Commission on Audit (COA) and asked about the funds because the principal has no supporting documents showing that he indeed gave the students in the group P500 each,” Troy (not his real name) told Bulatlat. He is the group’s choreographer and also a teacher in the said school.
“This has to stop,” Elena said.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said the practice of selling teaching items is rampant, especially in provinces where political patronage is prevalent.
“Many teachers are victimized by this kind of system. What is worse is that school principals are the perpetrators of this (system). They violate the guidelines of Department of Education Order No. 12 series of 2012,” ACT chairman Benjamin Valbuena said.
The DepEd order provides the procedure for hiring of teachers, as well as monitoring of division compliance and grievance and protest procedures.
“Teachers go through a rigorous process,” said France Castro, secretary general of ACT. She said that after the teachers have obtained their papers, such as the authenticated certificate of completion of the Licensure Examination for Teachers and Professional Board Examination for Teachers and certificates of trainings attended, among others, they are interviewed by the principal. Then after they do demo teaching and are evaluated positively, they should be appointed. After which, the school principal should facilitate the processing for teaching items for the said teachers. In this case, their papers have still not been processed by the principal.
The alleged extortion by the principal is not an isolated case, according to ACT.
“We have been receiving complaints through email and Facebook, especially from the Southern Tagalog region, but the affected teachers are afraid to come out,” said Castro.
In Nueva Ecija, Vladimir Quetua, deputy secretary general of ACT, said some teachers were forced to give their pigs, cow and goats in exchange for teaching items.
“Worse are the reported cases of sex in exchange for teaching items. Because the system is feudal, many principals are abusing their power,” Quetua said.
“That is why we commend these teachers for their courage to come out,” Castro said.
Quetua also said some principals have been withholding the salaries of teachers. “There is one case in Central Luzon where the principal did not give the salary of a teacher for three months. The principal reportedly told the teacher to choose only one from the three checks, which is supposedly her salary for three months. We fought for that and the principal eventually gave her salary.”
“We denounce these corrupt practices. These teachers are qualified and are professionals. They do not deserve this kind of treatment,” said Castro.
But despite their traumatic experience, Athena, Elena and Vanessa said they would still continue teaching in the said school even with the tense atmosphere. “The school is divided between us and the teachers who support us and the principal and his cohorts. But even if the working atmosphere is not harmonious, we still have a responsibility to our students. They need us,” Vanessa said.
The teachers demand for the principal’s preventive suspension. “We hope that something will be done in this case. Until he is reprimanded, many more teachers will be victimized by his corrupt practices,” said Vanessa.
ACT encourages all victims of corrupt practices to come forward and file a complaint against corrupt school officials.