MANILA, Philippines — Youth groups are demanding the resignation of the chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) for being “profit-oriented” following his proposal for an extra year in college to improve the quality of education in that level, their officials said Monday.
At the same time, the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and Kabataang Pinoy [Filipino Youth], along with lawyer Adel Tamano, president of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (University of the City of Manila, PLM) and United Opposition spokesman, said that CHEd Chairman Emmanuel Angeles’ plan only “favored profit-oriented higher educational institutions” and were “anti-poor and anti-student.”
“CHEd Chair Angeles is currently listed as member of the Board of Trustees of Angeles University Foundation as its corporate secretary. He has a reputation to have a negative bias towards the poor and marginalized,” said Tamano in a statement.
Vencer Crisostomo, Kabataan Pinoy spokesman, said the planned five-year program was “insensitivity to the difficulty being experienced by the students and parents due to high education and living costs.”
“This policy will cause a significant number of students to drop out from school especially considering that there is a global economic crisis. Instead of coming up with senseless projects like this, the government should focus on lowering education costs and making education more accessible,” he added.
At the same time, CHEd should “overhaul its educational policies” if it really wanted to improve the quality of education, said NUSP national president Alvin Peters.
“The current recommendations of CHEd and the government will only push the country’s education system into a worse crisis. This has been the case for the past years. The government should reverse its policy of deregulation and privatization of education and should raise the budgetary allocation for public higher education,” he said.
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If there is a complaint against a court decision or the conduct of a judge or justice, the complaint should be brought to the Supreme Court, which has disciplinary powers over members of the judiciary. Summoning those members to a congressional inquiry to explain a judicial act may be entertaining to watch, especially when there are suspicions that justice might have been sold to the highest bidder, but Congress will be overstepping its bounds. This is a slippery slope that members of Congress would do well to avoid.
The issue cropped up amid reports that the House of Representatives is planning to summon Court of Appeals Justice Apolinario Bruselas and members of his division as well as Judge Nina Antonio-Valenzuela of the Manila Regional Trial Court. A year ago the judge had issued a temporary restraining order on the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, which had planned to institute action that would have protected depositors from the collapse of rural banks belonging to the Legacy group of companies. As BSP officials have explained, quick intervention would have averted disaster.
When the case went up the Court of Appeals, the BSP’s hands were tied further, with the CA upholding the lower court’s TRO. Lawmakers have pointed out that this violated the New Central Bank Act of 1993, which prevents the courts from blocking BSP investigations of fraud. The law also gives the BSP a free hand to move immediately in cases where banks face insolvency.
It is not surprising to learn that there might be members of the judiciary who do not know the law, since too many people have joined this branch of government based chiefly on the right connections rather than capability. The public has long suspected that there is big money to be made in the issuance of TROs, especially in cases involving business transactions.
But if the Manila judge and CA justices have erred, a complaint must be filed against them with the Supreme Court, possibly by the BSP. The high tribunal can then determine guilt and impose the appropriate punishment. This task does not belong to the legislature, whose members might see a precedent and decide to have a say in every controversial judicial decision, the way they are already interfering in decisions on the implementation of development projects. What lawmakers can do is to strengthen the regulatory environment and prevent a repeat of the Legacy mess.
Editorial writers and columnists have been complaining lately about the lack of moral outrage over what’s happening in the country. But last week, something happened that may yet give us hope that the people are beginning to act and to demand better governance and better service from our government officials.
More than 1,000 people in Eastern Samar province, disgusted by the worsening condition of highways in the province, signed a petition demanding the immediate repair of badly damaged roads. In a letter, the petitioners said: “We say enough! No more excuses. Repair and rehabilitate our roads now.” Similar messages were sent to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, asking her where the people’s taxes were going.
Municipal Trial Court Judge Rowena Tan of Balangiga town, who drafted the petition, said, “The hell roads of Eastern Samar are an eloquent testimony to the selfishness, callousness and insensitivity of our local and national officials.”
Journalists who have traveled to Eastern Samar will readily testify that some of the worst roads in the country can be found in the province. People call the highways “a thousand lakes,” “hellish roads,” and, in a humorous and somewhat oxymoronic twist, “luxurious roads,” derived from “palukso-lukso” (because one has to hop from the edge of one pothole to another to avoid falling into the rut).
Billions of pesos are being allocated for construction and repair of roads and highways, but why are national highways such as those in Eastern Samar in such a deplorable state of disrepair? One reason is corruption. Contractors scrimp on some materials such as cement and gravel or asphalt so that they can make some profit after giving 20, 30 or perhaps even 40 percent of the project cost as kickback to certain national and local officials. Another reason is that provincial roads are not given enough attention because they are far from Imperial Manila and the critical eyes of the media.
The “rising” of 1,000 people in Eastern Samar gives us hope that Filipinos will no longer remain silent, clenching their fists and gnashing their teeth in helpless anger over the many bad things that are happening in their country. What is needed for evil to triumph over good is for good people to stay silent and do nothing about the evil things that powerful people are doing, or not to complain about the non-action of government officials on their urgent problems.
In a democracy such as the Philippines, the people have the right to peaceably assemble and ask the government for redress of their grievances. They have the right to complain about deficiencies in services and facilities; they are paying for these things with their taxes. They have the right to demand good service from government officials, from the President down to the last town councilor; their taxes pay for the salaries of these public servants.
The people have the right — and the obligation — to complain about, denounce and demand action on cases of corruption. Corrupt government officials steal the money of the people, money that should be used to provide the people with better services and facilities.
The people are getting fed up and they are doing something about the bad state of affairs in their communities, towns and provinces. The “rising” need not begin and end in Eastern Samar. It is high time the people expressed their moral outrage over the deplorable situation that is obtaining and the bad things that are happening in their country. Time to reprise Corazon Aquino’s “Tama na, sobra na!” [Enough already, too much already!]