Press Release
March 20, 2018

The School Feeding Program Must Not Burden Our Teachers

Explanation of Vote
Masustansyang Pagkain Para Sa Batang Pilipino

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto
20 March 2018

Mr. President:

The intention of this bill is to make undernourished children healthy, without further burdening our overworked teachers.

The idea is to serve our children healthy meals, without turning their underpaid teachers into an army of unpaid cooks.

I just have to state this for the record, Mr. President, out of respect for public school teachers on whose shoulders fall the burden of implementing this law.

There's a saying that we legislate in poetry, but we implement in prose. And when we write laws, we imagine how they will be carried out, because what is feasible on paper may not be possible in real life.

So it behooves us, Mr. President, that when we legislate, we do not just create the mandate, but we also provide the means.

On this particular bill, the means are more important than the mandate.

Why? Because this is about a big catering operation that will serve billions of meals, to millions of children, at a cost of billions of pesos, by hundreds of thousands of teachers, social workers, parents, community members and government employees.

And this additional work for teachers would not have been a problem if they're not an overworked lot in the first place.

They remain the bureaucracy's beasts of burden. In addition to their traditional duties, they are required to make so many reports that they spend more time filling up forms than being in front of their students teaching.

Ano ang sabi ng mga guro: Kinuba na kami sa dami ng reports, kinalyo na ang aming mga daliri sa kata-type ng mga forms na dapat i-submit, kinatarata na ang aming mga mata sa kasusulat ng mga ito.

The irony of it all is that computers should be an instrument of liberation technology. But the reverse is happening. Teachers have become subjected to digital enslavement. Mas marami pa ang homework ng mga nagtuturo kaysa sa mga tinuturuan nila.

Kaya itong school-feeding program na ito ay dapat maisakatuparan sa paraang hindi magiging pabigat sa kanila.

But as things stand at present, based on the current rules on school-based feeding, unless they are changed, will indeed be an additional burden on them.

Bakit ko nasabi? Kasi binasa ko po ang 22,345-word, 89-page DepED Order No. 39 on the "Operational Guidelines on the Implementation of the School-Based Feeding Program."

I am a connoisseur of cookbooks, but this is one meal preparation manual I have come across that is so comprehensive. My immediate conclusion: Kawawa ang mga teachers.

Sa starting line pa lang, dapat timbangin ang bawat bata, sukatin ang tangkad. I-report ang nutritional profile ng bawat isa pagdating ng Hulyo.

Ilan po ang forms na kailangan i-fill up lahat-lahat para sa buong programa from start to finish? 46. Apatnapu't anim na pahina lahat. Halos apat na dosena. In fine print.

Hindi rin mabilang ang mga meetings, core groups, consultations, partnerships, alliances na dapat mabuo.

May attendance sheet ng mga batang nakakain na dapat i-submit kada buwan. Tapos may form ng before and after na timbang nila.

Sa pagcanvass ng suppliers, sangkaterbang mga forms. May instances na kailangan ng Mayor's Permit, Tax Clearance Certificate, at kung malakihan, PhilGEPS Registration Certificate.

Sa delivery form, naka-itemize kung ilang kilo ang karne, bigas, isda, gulay at iba pa. Mayroon pangwarranty certificate.

Ang focal person na teacher dapat bonded, kasi tatanggap sya ng pondo. Karamihan sa kanila mayteaching assignment or class adviser. Ibig sabihin: Extracurricular nila ito, na wala namang dagdag na sweldo.

Ang masaklap pa, ang school ay wala o kulang ang tubig, walang kuryente, wala o wasak ang canteen, walang lutuan, walang panggatong, at kulang ang kubyertos at pinggan.

Tapos may mandatory three-page checklist pa: Is the floor of the canteen clean? Is the food properly covered? Is the viand serve of good quality? Are the servers in a proper attire?

Unless the teacher is a Jesus Christ who can feed a multitude out of a single loaf of bread, then he or she faces a mission impossible.

So against this backdrop, what can we do, aside from passing this bill?

One: ask the President to sign this bill immediately - it can be on Good Friday, as his penance, on Easter Sunday, on March 31, to project the powerful symbol that the hungry child will be resurrected, or even on April 1, Fool's Day - so funding for this bill can be factored in the 2019 proposed national budget, which the DBM is already preparing.

Two: classify, through a Special Provision of the DepED budget, cooking and canteen facilities as basic education facilities, to be treated in the same league as books and chairs.

Three: pressure DepED to expedite the construction of two important school facilities essential to school-feeding, of which, there is an accumulated backlog:

These are tech-voc laboratories, especially those designed as a canteen or food technology classroom. This way, we hit two birds with one stone: It can be a teaching laboratory that will feed the entire school.

And water and sanitation facilities, because this bill also mandates their construction. At present, 9,227 public schools, Mr. President, or one in five, are either totally waterless or rely on rain catchment.

Four: we should increase a school's MOOE because of the costs this program will entail.

Five: advocate a commonsensical, clear, and an uncomplicated IRR, especially on procurement.

These problems are also present in the other agency that will implement this law--the DSWD.

It is saddled by lack of personnel, hobbled by strict procurement and audit laws, which constrict the delivery of services to their 28 million regular clients.

The same ease-of-implementation solutions we seek for DepED, we should likewise fight for, for the overworked, underpaid DSWD staff.

Mr. President:

I have manifested these challenges because like any other legislature, this Senate sometimes falls prey to the "pass and forget" syndrome--so raising these in advance, in my opinion, anticipates the implementation problems which can now be solved in advance.

I vote yes, Mr. President.

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