Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones on Monday ultimately dismissed the involvement of the Department of Education (DepEd) in the Department of Health’s (DoH) initiative to distribute condoms in schools.
Following DepEd’s initial commitment to conduct thorough discussions on how the health agency plans to implement its program and an extensive study of DepEd’s legal mandates, the Education chief decided to remain consistent with the two Department’s respective responsibilities.
“The law does not allow us, that’s very clear. . . We started with the legal basis, nagpa-research na kasi ako when the announcement came out. Una kung ano ang role namin na nasa Executive Order [of President Rodrigo Duterte] at tsaka sa Supreme Court decision [on Reproductive Health Law],” Briones pointed out.
Under Executive Order No. 12, series of 2017, DepEd is directed to implement a gender-sensitive and rights-based comprehensive sexuality education in the school curriculum. Meanwhile, the Republic Act No. 10354, which the SC declared “not unconstitutional” except for eight items, DepEd is mandated to provide age- and development-appropriate health education to adolescents, which shall be taught by adequately trained teachers and integrated in relevant subjects, such as, but not limited to, values formation; knowledge and skills in self-protection against discrimination; sexual abuse and violence against women and children and other forms of gender-based violence, and teen pregnancy; physical, social, and emotional changes in adolescents; women’s rights and children’s rights; responsible teenage behavior; gender and development; and responsible parenthood.
“Obviously, what we’re allowed to do is to improve the curriculum. . . The role of DepEd is to enhance, to add to the current curricula on HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy but there’s no mention of distribution of services. . . Right now you have the health centers who are already tasked with that function,” the Secretary reiterated.
Furthermore, Briones emphasized that the Department recognizes and respects the parents’ role in decisions that concern the welfare of minors, “Hindi naman mga university students ang amin, we are involved with basic education and kailangan ang parental consent.”
The DepEd Secretary also noted that condom is only one of the range of choices in preventing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and teenage pregnancy. Aside from educating learners about the dangers of pre-marital and unprotected sex, youth who are already sexually active are encouraged to abstain, to talk to guidance counselors in schools, and to participate in peer exchange of experience.
Briones assured that the Department will follow the UNESCO guidelines on reproductive health, particularly in developing modules that will be used in schools. Teachers will also be trained on how to effectively discuss the dangers and emphasize the consequences of engaging in early sexual relations.