Classes for grade school students will not begin in June due to the prevailing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) which, as of Wednesday infected 8,212 and killed 558, Malacañang said.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this clarification amid the intention of some private schools to start classes in June by implementing a “multi-modal approach” which allows combination of both face-to-face and online classes.
Roque reiterated that only Higher Education Institutions may resume operations on a skeletal workforce in areas not under the Enhanced Community Quarantine.
“I can announce that there will be no classes this June for grade school, but for higher education institutes, they can have skeletal forces but only to finish the academic year and only to consider alternative learning,” Roque said in a television interview.
Andy Lord Cabie, who has two sons at the Sacred Heart Catholic School in Cainta, welcomed Malacanang’s announcement after the Federation of Associations of Private Schools, after a video consultation with DepEd officials, declared its intention to open classes in June.
“No can do,” Cabie said in his Facebook account, adding “they can start the academic year this June all they want (but) my kids are staying home.”
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) earlier recommended moving the next school opening to September, subject to the approval of the DepEd.
DepEd, which is eyeing the opening of classes in late August, is set to present its recommendations to the IATF-EID in May.
Roque said: “I don’t think there’s much of a difference between the recommendation of the IATF and the law because we’re only talking of one week. I think that can be threshed out.”
Although continuity of learning is important, Roque said “the primary consideration now is the health of the nation.”
Citing a study by the University of the Philippines, Roque said the youth “have the most contact with vulnerable populations including the elderly.”
“As far as epidemiology is concerned, the worst ‘carriers’ are actually young people,” he said.
Last April 23, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the IATF-EID’s recommendation to place Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Pangasinan, Benguet, Albay, Catanduanes, Davao del Norte, Davao City, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Antique, Iloilo, Cebu, and Cebu City under ECQ until May 15 since these are considered as high-risk areas.
But the EITF-EID recommended to revise the list of areas to be placed under ECQ, Roque announced on Tuesday.
The revised list includes Metro Manila; Central Luzon, except Aurora; Calabarzon; Pangasinan; Benguet; Baguio City; Iloilo; Cebu; Cebu City; and Davao City.
Roque said other areas will be placed under a less-stringent general community quarantine from May 1 to 15.
GCQ in low-risk areas may be lifted after May 15, in case there is no deterioration in their risk level.
Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights urged the government to respect the views and opinions of the public amid the pandemic.
"We continue to remind the government that public service requires a higher tolerance for opinions and criticisms, especially that a democracy works best when there are healthy discourses on governance; thereby, allowing greater accountability from our public officials," lawyer-spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.
She reacted to a move to deport an overseas Filipino worker in Taiwan—Elanel Egot Ordidor, a caregiver—for her online criticisms against the Duterte administration.
"It is then a cause of concern when a Labor Attaché works towards the deportation of Filipina caregiver, later named Elanel Egot Ordidor employed in Yunlin County, Taiwan, -over what appears to be an exercise of her right to express concerns on the plight of fellow Filipinos in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic," the commission's statement read.
"A statement of the Labor Secretary on Sunday, 26 April, assured that ’there will be an observance of due process.’ However, we equally stress that our Bill of Rights, enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, also guarantees the citizens' freedom of speech, of expression, or the right of the people to petition the government for redress of grievance," De Guia noted.
"The CHR notes that our overseas Filipino workers continue to be one of the sectors hardest hit by the consequences of lockdowns across the world. Many of these Filipinos, hailed as ‘modern heroes,’ are forced by current circumstance to head back home without any certainty of jobs to go back to," it said.