DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 June) – A multisectoral group in Lanao del Sur is asking the Education Secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to “reinstate Sunday to Thursday as regular school days in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur” instead of Monday to Friday.
Dr. John Magno, ARMM Education Secretary, issued Order 170-2016 last May 25 directing the Undersecretary for Madaris, Assistant Secretaries, Bureau Directors, Schools Division Superintendents and all other concerned, that starting schoolyear 2016-2017, all classes in the five-province, two-city ARMM will be held from Monday to Friday “to synchronize the holding of classes to the office hours within the region.”
Classes in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Isabela City in Basilan follow the Monday to Friday schedule observed nationwide but Lanao del Sur including Marawi City has been holding classes from Sunday to Thursday for years.
Magno also reiterated that every Friday, which is the equivalent of Sundays for many religions in the Philippines, classes are suspended from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for their prayer time.
“The problem is only in Lanao,” Magno told MindaNews, adding he issued that order “based upon the advisory of the Civil Service Commission (CSC).
Magno said that when Lanao Sur teachers meet an accident on a Sunday, they cannot claim benefits because according to the CSC, Sunday is not a prescribed working day. “I do not want that to happen again to my teachers in the ARMM,” he said, adding the CSC advised him revert to the old schedule.
Since ARMM was set up
On June 16, around 35 teachers, religious and youth leaders in Lanao del Sur met in Marawi City to discuss Magno’s order, said Drieza Liningding, Secretary-General of the Bangsamoro National Movement for Peace and Development.
Since the ARMM was set up in 1990, under then Governor Zacaria Candao, schools in Lanao del Sur and Marawi City, “backed by ordinances and resolutions by both Sangguniang Panglungsod and Sangguniang Panlalawigan, (have been) observing Sunday to Thursday as regular school days,” he said.
“This is an adjustment to give way to Friday as rest day” since Friday is “the most important day for Muslims, more important than Eid’l Fitr and Eid’l Adha,” Lininging said.
If the purpose is to synchronize schedules in the ARMM, Linigding asked, “why not make it uniform for the entire ARMM to follow the Sunday to Thursday regular school days? Why not? What’s stopping us? Is there any law prohibiting ARMM to do so? Aren’t we supposed to be autonomous? Does it require legislation from the Regional Legislative Assembly? Why not enact one? Bakit kelangan pag-initan ang Lanao dahil ayaw nila mag-aral during Friday?,”
Lininding said the group appealed to ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman to “reconsider our concerns” and urged incoming members of the Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA) to pass a law mandating the entire ARMM to make Sunday to Thursday “as regular school days or working days.”
Liningding said he is raising the issue because “we don’t want to attract the attention of the young Muslim radicals in Lanao on this.”
The reelected Hataman told MindaNews in a text message that he has directed Magno to conduct a dialogue with the teachers of Lanao and the CSC.
Atty. Laisa Alamia, ARMM Executive Secretary, explained to MindaNews that since Hataman took over as Governor, first as OIC from December 22, 2011 to June 30, 2013 and as elected Governor from 2013 to 2016, they have been trying to correct the practice in Lanao of having no class on Fridays and observing a month-long holiday during Ramadan.
She said teachers in Lanao del Sur argued that since their city is “Islamic,” there should be no classes during the month-long Ramadan. The city of Marawi had earlier passed an ordinance declaring a month-long holiday.
But Alamia said that even in Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, the whole month of Ramadan is not a holiday. What is a holiday is during Eidl’ Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and this is from one day to a week. In the Philippines, Eid’l Fitr is a one-day holiday nationwide.
This year, Alamia said, Ramadan in Lanao del Sur is no longer observed as a month-long holiday but teachers are now complaining about the Friday classes.
“Sana huwag nila gamitin ang relihiyon para di magtrabaho (I hope they will not use religion as an excuse not to work),” Magno said.
CSC Resolution 81-1277 states that “during Friday, the Muslim pray day, Muslims are excused from work from 10 o’clock in the morning to 2 o’clock in the afternoon.”
Alamia said that during Ramadan, office hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m without break so they can go home earlier for iftar or breaking the fast and to comply with the CSC’s 40 hours of work every week. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)