DepEd trifles with people’s right to be informed
By Estanislao Albano, Jr.
If the manner the Department of Education (DepEd) has been responding to my requests for information and for its reactions is the norm, then the agency wants to keep the public in the dark about pressing educational issues including its alleged shortcomings and sins and has no qualms about giving requesting parties the runaround.
DepEd officials and employees do not seem to mind that delaying the release of information or denying the same with questionable reasons and dodging or outrightly ignoring requests for reaction and official statements violates the Freedom of Information (FOI) order of Malacanang and Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, respectively.
Section 11 of the Department of Education People’s Freedom of Information Manual and Implementing Details, the agency’s implementing rules of the Freedom of Information order, provides that concerned departments are given a maximum of 15 working days to release an information extendable by not more than 20 working days in the case of requests needing extensive efforts to prepare.
Section 5 (a) of RA No. 6713 mandates public officials and employees to respond to communications from the public within 15 working days from receipt of the same.
But let’s take the case of my request for the summary of the results of the National Achievement Test (NAT) per region in connection with my investigation of the effects of the changes in the curriculum and related DepEd policies and programs on the learning performance of elementary and high school students sent on April 26, 2018. After the 15 working day period, I called the Bureau of Education Assessment (BEA) to follow up may be no less than five times getting varied reasons as to why the document has not yet been released such as the employee in charge being on official business. It was only on August 13 or more than three months later when the BEA emailed the data for school years 2012-2013 to 2016-2017.
There was no explanation as to how come the data was only for five school years when what was requested was from the initiation of the examinations up to 2017 and how come it took them almost four months to release what is supposed to be a readily available information.
Also pending with the DepEd national office long after the time set by law for government offices to respond is my request for the background and rationale of the agency’s decision to do away with the “No Read, No Move” rule for Grade 1 addressed to Dir. Jocelyn D. R. Andaya of the Bureau of Curriculum Development (BCD).
I went on to request for the bases for extending the timeframe for children to learn how to read from Kindergarten to Grade 3 “when for generations, Filipinos could already read English in Grade 1 without the benefit of pre-school for most.”
The email was sent on February 26 or more than two months ago. I do not know why it looks like DepEd is waiting for hell to freeze over before answering such simple questions about a major decision the agency made. If the decision was well thought and based on sound reasons, the only effort needed on the part the office of Andaya is for someone to sit down and write how the action was arrived at. Simple. Does not take an hour including the emailing.
So it is either Andaya does not have the answers or thinks a mere provincial journalist is not worth the time composing a letter. Will find which is which in the coming days.