(Privilege speech delivered by MP Mohagher Iqbal, Minister of Basic, Higher and Technical Education of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao during the session of the interim Bangsamoro Parliament on 23 June 2020 at the Shariff Kabunsuan Complex, Bangsamoro People’s Compound in Cotabato City)

BANGSAMORO SPEAKS: Balance compassion and discipline and at the same, uphold the rule of law

Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal delivers a privilege speech on Tuesday, June 23, at the interim Bangsamoro Parliament in Cotabato City. Screengrabbed from Bangsamoro Government video recording

Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues of the Bangsamoro Parliament, I stand before you today in defense of the two Memorandum terminating the employment of provisional and temporary employees of the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE) effective May 31, 2020.
Mr. Speaker, the MBHTE is home to approximately 25,554 employees. No doubt, we can safely say that we represent 60% of BARMM employees. Out of this number are 22,538 teaching personnel; 828 provisional employees or 3.2 % of the total population of MBHTE or 3.6% of the teaching personnel.

Typical to every home, is the occurrence of problems or life setbacks, and MBHTE, being a home to a gigantic family, is not an exception. As its head of office, I am like a father to them, and as a father, I have to balance compassion and discipline and at the same, uphold the rule of law. In giving compassion, we cannot afford to trample upon categorical provisions of law, Civil Service Commission  Memorandum Circulars and other applicable government auditing and accounting rules.

For almost 50 years of struggle, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) championed the cause of the great number of people who represents the oppressed, the marginalized and the underprivileged. But our struggle, does not end alone in the MILF having governed the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), but rather to have a reformed society. Such reform, so meaningful enough, where it would be instilled upon all of us the principle of Moral Governance. And along this line, is the marching order of the Chief Minister to bust ghost schools, ghost teachers, ghost school buildings, to include the flying ones. Fortunately or unfortunately, we have discovered several of these species – but they are under intense revalidation.

Recently, we have been confronted with various online bashing in our social media accounts because of the battered Memorandum Order No. 154 and Memorandum Order No. 194-B with the subject Cease and Desist Order of MBHTE provisional and temporary employees effective May 31, 2020. Being like a father to my employees, I am the first one who got affected by these Memoranda, imagine at my age, spending countless sleepless nights, loss of appetite and weight loss, not to mention senior moments at times, due to this issue. This is also very hard on my part. I know how lamentable their situation is because some of them are either in their senior years while others are struggling hard to make both ends meet, but we have to uphold the law.

I know that the issuance of these Memoranda causes so much pain and ignited the hearts of many to become rebellious in expressing their sentiments on social media, but believe it or not, their sentiment does not fall on a deaf ear. My dear colleagues, please do not ever think that these Memoranda were submitted with haste and oblivion. It stood the test of valid exercise of management prerogative as the Bangsamoro Attorney General’s Office affirmed our action in a letter dated July 24, 2019 and a Civil Service Commission (CSC) letter dated June 11, 2020 confirmed that the two Memorandum are consistent with Rule IV of the 2017 Omnibus Rules on Appointments and Other Human Resource Action (Revised 2018). There is nothing constitutionally or legally infirmed about these issuances.

Please do not also think that the Memoranda were only issued during this pandemic. The first Memorandum was issued on March 5, 2020, it was before the breakout of the COVID-19. It was originally to be implemented to take effect on April 30, 2020, because the month of April is the end of the School Year 2019-2020, but it was purposely moved to May 31, 2020, so that they can still qualify for the 2020 Mid-Year Bonus and the Emergency Relief Assistance Allowance (ERAA) granted by the BARMM Government.

May puso din po tayo but leading a government office is much difficult than becoming a rebel, because we have to ensure that government funds are not only used for its intended purpose but it must be used in accordance with a lot of laws.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Majority Floor Leader, a provisional or temporary appointment is good only for one school year, but our affected brothers and sister stayed with the position as provisional teachers for almost two decades and a few for  30 to 34 years in service without reappointment or renewal. This is clearly against the law. Don’t ask me anymore, what our predecessors have done or have not done to correct the situation because the answer is pretty obvious, “it is always mainly a political issue”. It is only during our time, that we have decided to correct it. By doing so, we will have an opportunity to professionalize the roll of teachers in the BARMM and at the same time, a chance to clean and disinfect our payroll.

Mr. Speaker, it is a public knowledge that the quality of education in BARMM is not exemplary, so we have to uplift our present status. The concrete actions that we have done so far as of today, are the following:

1. Conduct of Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET) review to teaching personnel of MBHTE who are non-eligible;
2. Hiring and deployment of 1,156 regular or plantilla Teacher 1 in Maguindanao;
3. Hiring of teachers in the island provinces (Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi). Their appointment will come out soon;
4. Issuance of 65 Change of Status appointments to former provisional Elementary School Teachers and Junior High School Teachers who were able to pass LET examinations;
5. Issuance of renewal appointment to one Department of Science and Technology –Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) Scholar whose provisional appointments is allowed by CSC under DepED issuances;
6. Issuance of renewal to 90 Senior High School Teachers whose provisional appointments is allowed by CSC under DepED issuances;
7. Close coordination with CSC and HRMO table assessments for the publication of appointments of Teacher 1 (Arabic) or the ALIVE teachers holding a provisional appointment; and

8. Approval of guidelines for the hiring of Contract of Service ALIVE teachers numbering to 2,492 for SY 2020-2021;

Moreover, I would like to seize this opportunity to request the Office of the Chief Minister and the Ministry of Finance and Budget and Management (MFBM) to allow the hiring of the provisional employees of MBHTE in Contract of Service (COS) basis even just up to the end of this School Year 2020-2021. I earnestly pray that my distinguished colleagues in this Parliament will support me with this request. This is the only way we can meet halfway: upholding the law and at the same time easing a little the sufferings of the provisional teacher.

As of the present time, there is no law allowing non-LET passers or non-eligible to become permanent to a plantilla position. Formerly, there is Republic Act No. 6850 which was signed into law on February 8, 1990, otherwise known as an Act to Grant Civil Service Eligibility to Government Employees under Provisional or Temporary Status who have rendered a Total of Seven Years of efficient service. This is also notably known as the Rasul Bill. The law is intended to be availed of once and for those who satisfy the requisites after the effectivity of the said law. The Civil Service Commission is no longer processing this kind of eligibility. Nevertheless, as far as teaching profession is concerned, we have Republic Act No. 7836 otherwise known as “Philippine Teachers Professionalization Act of 2004, which professionalizes the teaching profession.

While Rule IV of the 2017 Omnibus Rules on Appointments and Other Human Resource Action (Revised 2018) appears to have allowed hiring of Provisional Teachers but this comes with the following conditions:

1. The applicant must meet all the requirements of the teacher position except eligibility;
2. The absence of a qualified eligible actually available who is willing to accept the appointment;
3. Certification by the Schools Division Superintendent as to items 1 and 2; and
4. If provisional appointments/renewals have been issued in accordance with pertinent CSC rules and regulations, it will be submitted to the Civil Service Commission for evaluation and attestation.

Nowadays, we have a lot of LET passer applicants, that is why our Schools Division Superintendents are hesitant to certify that there is no qualified applicant who is willing to serve in their respective schools. So the conditions may appear to be simple, but the truth is, it is next to impossible.

If only there is way to make them permanent because of the length of service they have served to the Bangsamoro, then we will, but we all know for a fact that the power to promulgate our own civil service law was not conferred to us under Republic Act No. 11054  or the Oganic Law for the BARMM. Maybe there will be one or more from this august body who will emerge to have an enlightening idea on how to solve or minimize the impact of the situation. After all, the success of our Bangsamoro children does not lie only in my hands, but also in yours as officials of the BARMM Government.

At this point.. we should all agree with the words of wisdom of Nelson Mandela that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Sukran, May Allah SWT, grant us with wisdom for the betterment of Bangsamoro people.