POSTSCRIPT / December 31, 2009 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why build ‘karitons’ and not classrooms?

CLARK FIELD: After CNN picked as its Hero of the Year our Efren Penaflorida, whose group taught street children from pushcart mini-libraries, everybody began entertaining ideas of switching to “kariton” mode.

Fired by the novel Penaflorida teaching formula, many people — including no less than President Arroyo — are now saying that we should adopt the method and replicate the pushcart classroom all over the country.

Excuse me, but I think that instead of igniting a “kariton” revolution, the government and all groups concerned about mass education should push for more and better classrooms precisely to banish the spectacle of kids learning the basics in the streets.

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IMPROVISATIONS: The government should turn serious about its duty to provide free and compulsory elementary education instead of surrendering this function to pushcart brigades that, we must admit, are inferior to formal classrooms.

But we do not have enough funds for this? That is nonsense. If we count the billions lost to incompetence, inefficiency and corruption in government, the conclusion is clear that there is money for ALL basic services.

We should dream and exert serious effort to graduate from sidewalk vendors, buying by sachets, padjak transpo, and such improvisations.

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JEEPNEY MENTALITY: The tragedy of this country and this government is that we improvise from one crisis to another until the stopgap measure becomes, with time and volume, ingrained as the standard.

The jeepney, born out of the need for instant mass transportation after World War II, is an example of a stopgap measure turned permanent. More than half a century after that vehicle appeared, it has gone forth and multiplied, insisting on its crude, inefficient service as king of the road.

Sure, that contraption hammered out of surplus is charming, a psychedelic display of Filipino style and temper, a tourist attraction, et cetera. But let us admit that it is high time we replaced it with something better and consign it to provincial lines, if not to the museum.

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‘PUEDE NA RIN’: Jeepney operators and their drivers have burgeoned into a socio-political monster that goes berserk and paralyzes commuter traffic at every hint of stricter regulation.

Tolerated for too long by a spineless government and commuters conditioned to the quick fix, the jeepneys (plus the smoke-belching killer buses) have become untouchable. Have they formed a party-list yet? Whatever, no politician would touch them.

The jeepney is an example of the “puede na rin” attitude that has locked Filipinos to the dark cellar while the neighbors have climbed to the upper decks to enjoy the fresh air of efficient modern life.

We do not realize that however progressive the nation’s show-window capital may become, as long as jeepneys clutter the streets of the metropolis, no foreign investor will ever take us seriously.

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TRUANCY: The pushcart project is laudable because Penaflorida’s group is doing something about the problem of out-of-school youths. But instead of multiplying the “karitons,” we should keep insisting on the formal classroom being the standard.

It is smart to say that teachers should go to the pupils. But would not it be better if we gathered the children in classrooms that are more conducive to teaching/learning?

With political will, let us enforce truancy rules. Let us bring children to our schools and not allow them to loiter in the streets during class hours.

In my youth, that when a child of school age was spotted in the street during class hours, he was checked out by policemen and his parents made to explain his being absent from school. What ever happened to this practice?

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PRESS GRIPES: The boycott by the Pampanga Press Club of the lunch tendered yesterday by President Arroyo at a restaurant near the district office of presidential son Mikey in Guagua, Pampanga, should wake up her media handlers.

The local media are hurting over the discrimination they said they have been subjected to in recent presidential visits. The favorite daughter of Lubao town is campaigning to replace her congressman son aiming to return via a party-list nomination.

“Manila-based reporters are given full and free access to the President while the locals are shoved around by her security,” said chairman Ashley Manabat of the Pampanga chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

Last Dec. 9, set aside worldwide as Global Day of Action Against the Maguindanao Massacre and Impunity, the local media were subjected to police indignities just because the President was at the inauguration nearby of the San Angelo Chapel of the Holy Angel University in Angeles City.

The peaceful march was blocked by policemen who pushed the media for displaying a streamer condemning the massacre. A SWAT van and a fire truck stood by as if expecting violence.

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LOCALS BANNED: Local media have complained that were banned from covering the President’s last four visits.

Former PPC president Deng Pangilinan said: “We routinely get text advisory of the visits and invitation to cover and just as routinely, at the last minute, advised that the visit is for ‘in-house’ coverage only. We are not only excluded. We are insulted.”

The President later apologized to the media and promised greater access. But she addressed herself to the Manila-based press covering her, not to her cabalen.

Trying to do a repair job, the President’s supporters in Pampanga set an “intimate tete-a-tete” yesterday with local media at the Arroyo house near the San Agustin church in Lubao.

But an overzealous Philippine Information Agency meddled and opened the invitation to all media in the province, including the so-called “media-media” or hao-siao newsmen.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 31, 2009)

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