By Joemar Yubokmee

Cartoon by Lairah Nadine De Guzman

DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones reminded teachers to remain apolitical and not to use their social media platforms to share political opinions and stances. To ask our teachers to be apolitical is to enable historical revisionism and to turn a blind eye amidst social injustices. As educators, to do so is in juxtaposition of their mandate.

For us to understand the severe impact of this statement on the democratic process and even the educational institutions we have to first understand what it entails to be apolitical. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to be apolitical is to be disinterested or to have no involvement in political affairs. Basically, to be apolitical is to disregard the institution that controls and influences society, and to be apolitical is not to bat an eye to the injustice and oppression carried out by the people in power.  

ACT Teachers partylist Rep. France Castro opposed this view and blasted the DepEd by contending that amid the attempts of historical revisionism and the worsening culture of impunity in our society, teachers should not and cannot remain apolitical.  During this time when social media platforms are utilized to spew fake information, mislead people, and rewrite history in favor of a dictator who silenced everyone who opposed and who was at the forefront of every injustice in the country for two decades, it has never been more imperative for teachers to resist against this blatant attempt to rewrite our history and to stand up for truth and justice.

To be apolitical, teachers would have to be mum when they see students sharing fake information on certain politicians. To be apolitical is to be silent on the low wages, unjust salaries, and the overworking nature the teachers are subjected to in the status quo. Why would a department that is supposed to be an advocate for education, ask its teachers to stand aside and be neutral when in fact it’s their mandate to integrate and foster critical thinking among their students?

Silencing the teachers in their social media platforms is tantamount to violating their freedom of expression that is enshrined at the very core of our constitution. Asking teachers to be apolitical even when they have the avenue to correct and guide their students in the right direction is a shame. A shame that will be carried on by the Department of Education when the future would judge them for enabling and continuing this administration’s attacks on press freedom and the freedom of expression.

According to the Commission on Elections and the Civil Service Commission’s Joint Circular No. 1, series of 2016, “expressing one’s views on current political problems or issues cannot be deemed as a partisan political activity.” From this premise alone, the Department of Education’s reasoning of bureaucratic neutrality is already irrelevant. 

Indeed, teachers have the right to free speech but as educators their stance must always be in line with what is just Their freedom of expression comes with the baggage of responsibility to promote facts and genuine information and to never be instruments of the futile attempts to rewrite history and delegitimizing the atrocities committed by a dictator. 

At the end of the day, regardless of whether we are government or private firm employees, we all share the responsibility to call out the government for its ineptitude, it is our right to advocate for whoever politician we see fit to lead our country, and our freedom of expression must never be abridged. As the institution that people rely on for education, it is our moral and ethical obligation to always veer on the side of truth. The time to speak, the time to correct, and the time to resist is now. There could be no bright tomorrow if we continue to blindly conform to whatever is dictated upon us. The moment we stop questioning and the very moment we stop caring is the moment that we lose our democracy.