The Department of Education (DepEd) said on Monday, August 10, that it has no budget allotted for the treatment of teachers who contract COVID-19.
"COVID medication and treatment funding budgets are not present or appropriated in the existing budget of DepEd. And I think it is true for all national government agencies," Education Undersecretary for finance Anne Sevilla told reporters in a Viber message when asked how the DepEd is helping its personnel who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Sevilla said that what has been allowed to be charged to DepEd funds are the supplies needed for the compliance with minimum health standards.
"For those employees who opted to be treated in private hospitals, they also got assistance from DepEd but not from the government funds but from the personal contributions and collective efforts of the DepEd family," Sevilla said.
In a message to reporters on Tuesday, August 11, Sevilla said that her statement yesterday was a "specific reply" to the availability of funding covered under the DepEd budget for treatment of teachers should they contract COVID-19.
"It is only [the] DOH (Department of Health) which has mandate to use government funds for hospitalization and treatment. This is a policy that should also be raised to DBM (Department of Budget and Management) and COA (Commission on Audit) because even if we want to assist and support our employees, we don’t have budget [to] cover and authority to use DepEd budget for such," Sevilla said.
Sevilla, however, noted that all government employees, including DepEd employees, are covered by PhilHealth.
This development came after a teachers' group demanded assistance from the agency after reports that several teachers have contracted the virus while being asked to report physically in schools amid the rising cases of COVID-19.
"We’ve been in and out of schools and learners’ communities since June, but DepEd still refuses to ensure screening before reporting, mass testing, and full treatment subsidy for infected personnel – costing already the health and lives of one too many teachers and staff," said Raymond Basilio, secretary general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, in a statement on August 8.
Rappler asked DepEd last week for data on the number of teachers who have contracted the virus, but it has yet to respond as of posting.
As of Sunday, August 9, the Philippines recorded 129,913 cases of COVID-19, including 2,270 deaths and 67,673 recoveries.
Teachers themselves have been asking the DepEd to postpone to a later date the opening of classes to give them more time to prepare. (READ: 3 weeks into school opening, teachers say they still don't have copies of learning modules)