POSTSCRIPT / June 5, 2014 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Education is the key, but we’re bungling it

SOLUTION: Many times, discussion groups surveying the dismal state of the nation and looking for solutions ask with a sigh of near resignation, “So what do we do, where do we begin?”

A quick and logical answer is EDUCATION, since as mandated by the Constitution, all Filipinos must be educated to prepare them not only for life but also for the responsibilities of citizenship.

Section 1 of Article XIV says, “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels, and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.”

Section 2 (2) mandates the state to “establish and maintain, a system of FREE public education in the elementary and high school levels. xxx Elementary education is COMPULSORY for all children of school age.”(all caps mine)

Under Section 3 (2), all schools shall “inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal discipline, encourage critical and creative thinking, broaden scientific and technological knowledge, and promote vocational efficiency.”

There is THE SOLUTION. Something must have gone wrong?

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NUMBERS: Going by annual statistics, it should not be difficult anticipating how many elementary and high school students will enroll every year.

After determining the number of incoming enrollees and the optimum number per class, the Department of Education should then be able to predict how many classrooms, textbooks and teachers are needed.

Having crunched the numbers, the department can then estimate how much is needed. The amount MUST then be reserved in the annual budget before it is plundered.

That sounds easy enough, but every school opening in June, we are assailed by the same reports of shortages of classrooms, textbooks and teachers.

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PLANT MORE TREES: Why the perennial classroom shortage, or the packing of a large number of students in cramped space? Frankly we don’t know. Maybe DepEd officials and eventually Malacañang itself might have the answers.

More in jest and somewhat out of exasperation over the classroom shortage, we suggested days ago onTwitter that we plant more mango trees in the countryside. (Remembering those idyllic pictures of pupils attending classes in the shade of a mango tree.)

Besides, I twitted, by planting mango trees we will be addressing environment and food concerns aside from nipping at the classroom shortage.

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NEIGHBORHOOD MODEL: Officials might want to check related stories that I first heard from my daughter Leonila P. Bautista (now with the Department of Science and Technology) who spent five years working for her masters and doctorate at Kyoto University.

In their place around Kyoto (and presumably in other places in Japan), she said, students not going to private schools may enroll only in public elementary and high schools near where they live. The government makes sure there are enough schools in the area.

The kids in the same neighborhood are grouped together so they walk to and from school together. They do not move out unless all the group members are accounted for.

With such an arrangement, students walking to school do not add to the transport traffic problem. That also minimizes problems involving their safety.

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PLEASE RESIGN: In Malacañang, meanwhile, to spare his boss the President the anguish of having to decide between dismissing and defending him, Budget Secretary Butch Abad may want to go on leave or resign outright.

One has to be insensitive or deaf and blind to the tempest swirling around Abad not to feel the pressure for him to vanish from his perch beside President Noynoy Aquino.

There are more than enough reasons – with more piling up — to give up being head of the Department of the Budget and Management. The most convenient is health reasons, vague enough to refer to the wellbeing of the nation, of his own, or of the President.

But only Abad can do the job of DBM chief? Not unless it includes keeping the lid on incriminating presidential secrets, particularly those having to do with public funds and the corruption of co-equal branches of government.

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KAPIT TUKO: But will not Abad’s quitting at this point be an admission of guilt of various accusations hurled at him? Not necessarily.

To influence the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan in case charges are eventually filed, he and his boss can make a big show of the President’s abiding trust in the innocence and integrity of his bosom pal. The President’s pronouncement might work.

It may just be perception, but the longer Abad remains “kapit tuko”, the more suspicion of wrongdoing will grow and mud thrown at him splattering on the President.

It might be wise for Abad to quit before the Supreme Court hands down a ruling on the constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program. The pork barrel-type DAP was invented by Abad with the approval of the President without benefit of an appropriation law.

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DEMOLITION: Vice President Jojo Binay squelched rumors yesterday that his camp was blaming Malacañang for the circulation of a white paper linking the Binays to the pork barrel scam.

“We firmly believe that President Aquino has nothing to do with the smear campaign against the Vice President,” Binay’s spokesperson Joey Salgado said. The website of a radio station had Binay blaming the Palace.

The demolition white paper disguised as an investigative report has been traced to an outfit in Bonifacio Global City whose operations are being financed by “brothers entrenched in politics.”

This early, presidential wannabes are already positioning to capture not only public approval but also the tacit support of President Aquino whose endorsement is believed to bring in at least 20 percent of the votes.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 5, 2014)

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