‘Nothing wrong’ with Surigao DepEd official’s memo

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/5 March) – There is “nothing wrong” in the controversial memorandum order of an education official in Surigao del Norte requiring graduating students to submit a tax clearance certificate as a graduation requirement, a regional official of the Department of Education said.

Raul Orozco, DepEd-Caraga administrative officer, said the initiative of Dr. Evelyn R. Fetalvero, schools division superintendent, could be due to a nationwide campaign of the Bureau of Internal Revenue enjoining government agencies and the local government units to help in tax revenue collection.

Asked on the process in the issuance of memorandum or circulars from the local level, Orozco said: “If the EO so expresses all government agencies within the province of Surigao del Norte are encouraged to participate in revenue generation then the superintendent of that province, in her exercise thereof of her authority, could issue a memorandum for information and guidance only (and) within her jurisdiction.”

Fetalvero’s memorandum 08 series of 2012 issued last January 18 was based on Executive Order 01 series of 2011 of Gov. Sol F. Matugas titled “An order requiring a tax clearance certificate issued by the provincial, city and/or municipal treasurer, as the case may be, evidencing payment of yearly tax obligations from any requester including local contractors and suppliers of goods and services, and job applicants before issuance of official records.”

Orozco added any memorandum issued by a DepEd official within her jurisdiction does not necessarily pass through the regional office or the central office. What is important is that the memorandum is not “mandatory.”

“We can only encourage,” the DepEd official added.

Orozco emphasized that this is the case when the DepEd is not collecting fees, including the already standard fees for the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, Girl Scouts of the Philippines and the Philippine Red Cross. He said a national memorandum has been issued on the matter regarding the collection of such fees but “this is not mandatory.”

He also said that if there is a strong clamor for the withdrawal of the memorandum, it is the parents and teachers who will file the petition to withdraw. The DepEd official said it is the parents and teachers’ organization that will be decisive in “recalling” the order.

Orozco, however, expressed apprehension should the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) file a petition or a case against Fetalvero, noting it will “already be adversarial.”

Lawyer Alfonso S. Casurra, IBP provincial chapter president, threatened to file a case against Fetalvero if she fails to recall her order. Casurra, former mayor of Surigao City, is a political nemesis of the Matugases. Casurra said if they find a student not being able to graduate because of Fetalvero’s memorandum, the IBP will file a case.

Orozco said Fetalvero’s order could have stemmed from her initiative to help the local government and “in the exercise of (her) jurisdiction because there is the school board fund.”

The regional DepEd official explained that the creation of the local school board as provided for by the 1991 Local Government Code specifies the relationship between the provincial governor and the division superintendent – the school board is chaired by the governor and co-chaired by the schools division superintendent.

Last week, Matugas suggested Fetalvero to recall Memo 08 and the addendum covered under Division Memo Order 11 issued on February 3, 2012.

Matugas further said critics should be more circumspect in issuing statements, underscoring the initiative of Fetalvero in the provincial tax collection efforts.

The governor defended Fetalvero and thanked the latter for her support to a local initiative, which she said is meant to encourage the public to responsibly pay their taxes.

“In fact, I admire her for being true to her side… her responsibility in supporting the cry of the province,” Matugas said.

On Feb. 3, Fetalvero issued the addendum on the controversial item no. 3, which now states that “if parents with real properties could not pay the whole tax amount accruable for the year, it will not hinder their pupils/students to graduate.”

The Iglesia Filipina Independiente Surigao Diocese called the memo “illegal and immoral” and called on Fetalvero to withdraw her memorandum.

Orozo on one hand commended the DepEd official for her move to create an “addendum” to the order, saying this means that the official is “sensitive” to the woes of the public. (Vanessa L. Almeda / MindaNews)