MANILA, Philippines — On June 5, Wednesday, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) condemned acts of intimidation directed against Maricel Herrera, the teacher who exposed photos of the comfort room-turned-faculty room at the Bacoor National High School.
The Department of Education’s (DepEd) contentious response to Herrera’s exposé, which garnered much attention online, sparked calls for solidarity from fellow teachers.
This was in light of DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones’ statement that the teachers chose to stay in the decrepit faculty room because it was “more dramatic and toucing.”
“What Ms. Herrera is being made to suffer right now is a clear case of union repression and violation of her academic freedom. She is being shamed and punished for speaking truth to power,” the alliance said in a statement.
When asked about her motivations behind posting the photos, Herrera said, “Nakita ko talaga ‘yun hirap ng mga guro—mula sa pagbubuhat ng mga silya’t mesa hanggang sa pag-aayos ng kanilang mga kagamitan. Hindi lang ito nangyayari sa Bacoor kundi sa buong Pilipinas.”
(I really saw the hardships of the teachers, from carrying tables and chairs to fixing their own materials. This is not only happening in Bacoor, but the entire Philippines.)
Not an ‘isolated’ case
ACT also denounced Briones’ statement that the case was an isolated one.
In an interview with Rappler, Herrera said, “Sana nandoon siya nung oras na sabay-sabay nagtratrabaho ‘yun mga guro para humanda sa bagong taon. Nakaka-offend na hindi niya nararamdaman ‘yun hirap ng mga guro.”
(I wish she was there when the teachers were working to prepare for the upcoming school year. It’s hurtful to see how she doesn’t feel the hardship of the teachers.)
A new school year started last Monday, June 3, prompting other public schools and teachers to recall their frustrations.
Bagong Silangan Elementary School in Quezon City and Calderon High School in Manila were other institutions that also suffered from similar facility shortage problems.
According to ACT, examining the poor working conditions of public school teachers was simply an act of truth-telling.
“’Yun mga guro na iniinterview nila ay yun mga hindi masyadong apektado. Di nila ako pinapatawag dahil alam nilang hindi ako pipigil sa pagsalita,” said Herrera.
(The teachers that they interviewed were those that weren’t as affected. They didn’t call for me because they knew I would not stop from speaking out.)
The alliance equally condemned the threats of Anita Rom, BNHS principal, to sue Herrera for allegedly ‘disparaging the reputation’ of the education agency and school.
Herrera met with DepEd Undersecretary Jesus Lorenzo Mateo and other officials last June 6, Thursday to discuss plans on how to improve the school facilities.
“Nangako sila na magkakaroon ng building para lamang sa mga guro, ngunit kailangan lang naming bantayan dahil wala pang tiyak,” posited Herrera.
(They promised to have a building for the teachers. We just have to watch over them because nothing is definite.)
When asked how she felt about the tremendous support other teachers were showing, Herrera was gracious. “Napatunayan namin na maraming concerned sa edukasyon. Hindi lang ito bulag-bulagan.”
(We proved that a lot of people are concerned about education. This is not simply about playing blind.) – Rappler.com
Joddi Edwards Chua is a Rappler intern and Communications Technology Management major at the Ateneo de Manila University.