DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 July) — The Department of Education-Region XI dismissed calls by teachers to scrap the policy requiring log-ins via a fingerprint biometric system.
In an interview Wednesday, DepEd-XI administrative officer Gerard Pil said the device provided “accurate” information on the log-in information of teachers and other employees in the city’s 285 elementary and secondary schools.
“As of the moment, we are still studying the biometrics, but we cannot lift the practice yet,” Pil said, adding “it is the most reliable source of maintaining the integrity of attendance.”
He said the biometric system also did away with the “element of dishonesty.”
Calls to scrap the biometric system came amid reports that teachers have incurred salary deductions because of alleged malfunctions and other issues surrounding the use of the machines that have replaced the old school bundy clocks and logbooks.
In a committee hearing Tuesday at the city council, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Davao president Elenito Escalante called the practice oppressive and asked the council to intervene.
Escalante told the committee the teachers had to fall behind long lines during mornings and lunch breaks when using the biometric system.
He said the long lines resulted in some teachers not logging in on time despite already being in campus while lining up to log in.
In 2011, DepEd had issued guidelines requiring its employees to log in using the device, with each printout as the official daily time record.
ACT said in their manifesto they have received numerous complaints regarding the biometric system since 2013.
But Pil said he suspected that the issue was not really the practice of using the biometrics but that there were teachers who were afraid of their whereabouts being tracked by the device.
“This is already a common practice,” he said, citing the use of the device in the trial courts and even private establishments.
The official said he was also scheduled to monitor Tuesday the issues about the biometric scanners in the schools.
He said the visits to different schools would determine whether these issues were based on defective units, software errors, printing problems, or problems with the operators of the devices.
Teachers are asked to fill out an EFLF (explanation of failure to login or logout form) in case there are gaps in their daily time records.
ACT said teachers must also have their absence forms notarized upon the third offense, which they called “burdensome” because of the expenses.
Pil said the department was adamant about this requirement to discourage unnecessary absences.
He added employees don’t have to explain in case of log-in defects caused by power and machine failures. The school head would only have to certify that such an incident occurred.
Committee on education chair Maria Belen Acosta said during Tuesday’s hearing that the city council could not interfere with DepEd administrative matters.
Each biometric unit cost around P8,000, according to Pil, with the city’s local school board budget funding at least 200 units in the different schools.
In some cases, the bigger schools would buy their own units to augment the one that was provided by the city.
As early as July 2013, a formal petition letter to scrap the system was circulated in schools.
In August last year schools division superintendent Helen Paguican sent a written reply to ACT that the biometric attendance system was a more accurate tool with security features.
Paguican added the government should not be made to pay for services not rendered, and rejected the demand for the scrapping of the attendance system.
In September last year, the city council committee on education held its first hearing regarding the biometric system. (MindaNews)