POSTSCRIPT / November 24, 2009 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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‘Kariton’ shows gov’t neglect of street kids

‘KARITON KLASS’: A week after boxer Manny Pacquiao won universal acclaim by punching his way to his seventh straight world title, another Filipino — Efren Peñaflorida — gained international recognition for his unique project educating poor street children.

Peñaflorida was named Hero of the Year by the Cable News Network (CNN) for starting “Kariton Klassroom,” a novel approach to education by going to out-of-school children instead of waiting for them to walk to the classroom.

The group’s pushcart classroom comes with teaching aids, blackboards, folding tables and chairs to allow children to sit and read materials in a mini-library.

Now a formal school teacher in Cavite, the 25-year-old hero received $100,000 to continue the work of his group Dynamic Teen Company, whose 10,000 volunteers have taught reading, writing and hygiene to 1,500 youngsters in the streets.

As one of 10 finalists winnowed from thousands of entries from more than 100 countries, he also received a $25,000 bonus.

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MANDATE: While he won recognition, Peñaflorida unintentionally drew notice to the government’s failure to provide free and compulsory elementary and high school education as mandated in the Constitution [Section 2(1), Article XIV (Education)].

There would hardly be any need for a Peñaflorida and his “Kariton Klassroom” in a setting where the government gave education priority attention, as again mandated by the Constitution [Section 17, Article II (State Policies)].

The pertinent text of Article XIV is: “Section 2. The State shall: (1) Establish, maintain, and support a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society; (2) Establish and maintain, a system of free public education in the elementary and high school levels.”

On the other hand, Article II says: “Section 17. The State shall give priority to education, science and technology, arts, culture, and sports to foster patriotism and nationalism, accelerate social progress, and promote total human liberation and development.”

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‘PAGPAG’ CULTURE: Without intending it, the “Kariton” called to mind the trade-mark pushcarts that scavengers use as they pick through garbage on city streets to salvage reusable and recyclable materials that can fetch them a little money.

We see scavengers, right in the nation’s capital, rummaging through leftover food dumped with the garbage that they shake (“pagpag”) to rid it of dirt, ants and other creatures competing for something to eat.

Some of these “pagpag” leftovers end up being cooked again, dressed up and sold to unwary pedestrians looking for cheap snacks. Yuck!

This pushcart footnote is likely to invite barbs about my citing the negative side of a positive development. But to be heard in this country where officials have grown deaf and numb, we often have to scream and swear for the dispossessed and the destitute.

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FAST AND FURIOUS: Within 24 hours of the filing by former President Joseph Estrada of a Certificate of Candidacy on Nov. 30, which happens to be Bonifacio Day, he will reap a hailstorm of protest cases questioning his qualification to run again for president.

And within 24 hours of the filing of such objections, either with the Commission on Elections or the Supreme Court, Estrada can be expected to file his almost instant replies. It will be that fast and furious.

Both Estrada and the expected complainants — and even the justices of the Supreme Court — have been studying in advance the “reelection” issue bedeviling the former president trying to recapture his lost political Eden.

All that is needed to trigger the legal fireworks is the “cause of action,” which is the filing of his CoC. Without his filing, no legal action can be initiated, as eager-beaver Oliver Lozano learned weeks ago when the High Court threw out his premature complaint against Estrada.

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CLOSURE: This kibitzer thinks it might be best for this fractured nation to just gloss over Estrada’s candidacy whose legal fate rests on that sentence in Section 4 of Article VII saying “xxx The President shall not be eligible for any reelection.

My opinion carries no weight, but I still suggest that we be sporting enough to let Estrada run again for the post that he once held for a brief 2-1/2 years of a six-year term.

If the people have had enough of him, or if they believe he is less qualified than the other candidates anyway, there should be no problem with his being allowed to run.

Putting it to a vote in May 2010 is the only way we can find closure to that reelection question.

A decision of the Supreme Court, for or against his bid, will not put the issue to rest. Only a verdict by the sovereign people speaking through the ballot can.

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POLITICAL PROCESS: Elections are basically a political process, despite the legal side issues that necessarily attach to them. As such, electoral contests are best decided by the voters, not by justices in robes sitting in judgment.

If the people themselves want Estrada back, why should a judge slap down such a sovereign verdict? But if the voters give the returning president a clear notice that they have had enough of him, he would have no reason to insist.

Preventing him from running might just provide him a reason, valid or not, for claiming later that his foes, in collusion with Malacañang, had ganged up on him to frustrate the will of his beloved masa.

Letting a harmless Estrada run again for president is a neater way of putting a closure to the issue.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 24, 2009)

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