Governance

(Part 2) White paper: Behind CARP ‘pump-priming’ projects

My bad. It took me three days to publish here the second and last part of the expose/white paper about a corruption involving DAR top officials. The first part is here. Now enjoy reading the part two, as follows:

SARO Fiasco, Fake NCAs and Advance Commissions – Part II

AS a continuation to the P500 million SARO fiasco, the lazy bugs (with the “s”) in DBM shared to our DAR spiders (again with the “s”) more damning revelations of SAROs and NCAs proliferating around supposedly for CARP pump-priming projects. These SAROs and NCAs were dangled to LGUs and favored contractors who would agree to provide our mafias “advance commissions”.

According to our Spiders, aside from the SARO E-06-10436 (P500M) stated in an earlier paper, another SARO was issued on December 29, 2006 (SARO No. E-06-10435) worth P347M broken down as P197M for MOOE and P150M for Capital Outlays. A Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA-BMB-E-07-0000395) for P150 Million was subsequently issued. Curiously, based on documents at hand, there were two sets of “annexes” with different sites of project implementation using the same amount of P150M and referring to the same NCA with DBM barcode encryption.

This prompted then FMAO Use to request assistance from S! ec Andaya (DBM) in clarifying the authenticity of the SAROs, NCAs, and “annexes”. Walang kopya si Usec? Would this mean that the two mafias by-passed the FMAO and lobbied directly with the DBM for the SAROs, NCAs? One thing is definite here; all communications of Mr. Work in Progress and Mr. Bigote to the DBM used the letterheads of DAR which is very unusual as it should be the PARC officials, using PARC letterhead, who are to communicate with DBM on CARP funds as per official protocol.

The DBM lazy bugs were baffled on the many instances of double letters, double project sites, and double SAROs that they would have to consult their ophthalmologist as they were having double vision. Even our eight-eyed spiders were mystified that they made some sleuthing on how the mafia operates in our department.

Here’s how the mafia operates, as seen from the cobwebs.

ARMM mafia don Mr. Work in Progress asks the boss of our Lazy Bugs to immediately release SARO or NCA for “much needed” CARP pump-priming projects. He provides a copy to PARC, and secretly slips another copy to the CL Mafia boss, headed by Mr. Nite. Boss Nite, orders his top hammer, Mr. Bigote and some close frat-brod operators to shop for “willing” LGU executives and contractors in Region 3 and Region 4A for the supposed implementation of pump-priming projects.

From the SAROs and NCAs, t he ARMM mafia boss will be assured of fund allocation for some towns in ARMM (i.e. millions for the Municipality of Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao) plus a 20%-30% commission from all the operations of the CL Mafia group in the agreed “pump-priming areas”. The CL Mafia group would retain another 40% of the total project cost. Only 30%-40% of the “pump-priming programs” are actual implementation focusing on road RE-GRAVELLING under “Farm-to-Market Roads (FMR)”. Mas malaki kasi ang kikitain sa regravelling at madaling ilusot sa COA. Halos lahat ng money-making racket sa DAR at DA ay nasa road rehab, improvement at regravelling. Cost of each FMR projects as itemized by Mr. Work in Progress, Mr. Nite and Mr. Bigote ranges from P5million to P30 million, depending on the willingness of the LGU and contractor on such arrangement.

According to the lazy bugs of DBM, Sec Andaya has been informed last Friday on the mafia operations in the department but showed no interest on pursuing an investigation on the proliferation of fake SAROs, NCAs, annexes of project sites, saying: “problema nila SNCP yan”.

May kinalaman kaya si Sec Andaya dito? O may mas higit pang mataas na opisyal na sangkot dito? The lazy bugs suddenly hid under the bed.

(Part 1) White paper: Behind CARP ‘pump-priming’ projects

This is my first time to publish over my blog “white papers” I’m receiving over email. What follows is one of two related white papers I’ve received from Timone Tumba (what an anonymous name) regarding alleged corruption at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) involving top officials. I understand that it is the white paper’s purpose to catch the attention of legislators and concerned authorities.

Being a concerned citizen and an advocate of authentic agrarian reform, I think that there may be truth in the expose and should therefore warrant the public’s attention. So, here’s the text of the white paper. Do note that I didn’t use specific names to save me from possible incrimination.

P500M SARO scramble and bungled money-making operations reveals Mafia-like operations in DAR

20 September 2007

Two separate letters to the DBM from our top officials would later reveal a modus operandi being employed by mafiosos in DAR to suck out CARP funds in the guise of improving the lives of agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Both letters were dated and sent on the same day, January 30, 2007. One letter signed by Mr. Work in Progress for his penchant use of “its work in progress” whenever confronted with various issues by the media, requested for the release of National Cash Allotment or NCA for pump priming projects under CARP, while another letter was signed by Mr. Bigote, requesting for the release of Special Allotment Release Order or SARO also for the same pump priming projects under CARP.

The letter of Mr. Bigote has an attached list of project areas for the implementation of the pump priming projects with corresponding amount of project cost. Notably, the P500 million, as per Mr. Bigote’s long list, would be utilized entirely for selected municipalities in Region 4-A and two municipalities in Bulacan.

The SARO No. E-06-10436 with an amount of P500 million was actually issued on December 28, 2006 by the Department of Budget and Management for the purpose of “To cover requirements of Pump-Priming projects under CARP” and charged against the general automatic appropriations for RA 6657 and EO 228.

According to our lazy bugs in DBM, a copy of the SARO No. E-06-10436 was already released to DAR in mid-January and that DBM was surprise to receive two letters of the same date from Mr. Work-in-Progress and Mr. Bigote. “Nag-kukurutan na naman siguro dyan sa department nyo” surmised the lazy bug.

What the DBM insects doesn’t know are the brewing conflicts from amongst the big time mafiosos in our department. There are two groups of mafiosos in our midst. The first group is identified with Mr. Work in Progress (or the ARMM mafia) and the other one headed by Mr. Nite (or the CL mafia). Mr. Bigote is identified with the CL mafia.

At the beginning of the SARO fiasco, Mr. Bigote tried to snatch the money allocated under SARO from the ARMM mafia, and overeagerly followed up with the DBM to have it released immediately to the DAR Region 4A in which he is the Regional Director. Mr. Bigote even dangled the SARO No. E-06-10436 with his favorite town mayors in Rizal and favored contractor saying “its in the bag!”.

But unknown to Mr. Bigote, our quicker Mr. Work in Progress has already got hold of the money in February and as of March 2007 has already sent P200 million to ARMM, P200 million to different politicos under the Lakas-CMD-UMDJ and Kampi, and P100 million as personal reward! Teka, pang pump-priming ng CARP projects yan ah…hoy!

Meanwhile in the municipalities of Teresa, Baras, and Tanay, all in Rizal province, the favored contractor (MJP Construction) started working on the “regravelling” project at the prodding of the CL mafia, the total amount involved is a staggering P 47 million! And that’s in three barangays alone!

However, in a PARC Memorandum signed by a Director dated June 14, 2007 for Mr. Bigote showed that the SARO E-06-10436 has already been programmed for priority projects NATIONWIDE, including Region 4A and that his long list are not included in the programmed projects. Naloko na. Paano na ngayon mababayaran ang contractor, eh nagpa-bidding pa naman ang DAR region 4A. Paano na mga komisyon?

The DBM lazy bug told us that a letter was sent on August 16, 2007 by the MJP Construction to Secretary Andaya seeking for the release of funds representing the amounts which they were made to believe were covered by CARP priority programs and SARO E-06-10436. The local mayors of Rizal were starting to howl on the failed project promises of DAR.

Sensing that the situation is getting out of hand, Mr. Work in Progress reached out to the CL Mafia to put their acts together and immediately settle money matters for contracted construction companies and appease the municipal mayors. Mr. Nite was appointed OIC for FMAO, another to head the Field Operations, and Mr. Bigote as OIC Asec for Operations.

Teka, ito kaya ang dahilan kung bakit nagresign si ang isang undersecretary?

The formula is for Mr. Work in Progress to provide open opportunities for more funding (meaning more opportunity for kurakots) and the CL mafia to do the dirty work. The CL mafia will support Mr. Work in Progress, in return the CL mafia will be given more power and greater access to the department funds.

“In three years wala na tayo dito, sabayan na natin ang nasa taas”, where the words of the don from the ARMM mafia, according to the insects who bugged the meeting.

On August 17, 2007, Mr. Work in Progress sent another formal letter to the DBM Secretary requesting for P750 million allocation again for pump priming the CARP projects. This time no parallel letter was sent to DBM from the CL Mafia.

Mababayaran na rin kaya ang contractor! Mapapakalma na kaya ang mga Mayor? Magkakatotoo na rin ba ang komisyon? Pero teka, hindi ba’t dapat imbestigahan ang mga pandarambong na ito? Kabang yaman ito ng bansa, for DAR program implementation!

Tinatawagan po namin ang mga kakampi ng kabutihan at mga kalaban ng kasamaan…tinatawagan namin ang senado, ang kongreso, ang PAGC, ang Ombudsman, ang Sandiganbayan, ang sambayanan!

Kung may ZTE controversy, SARO hullabaloo at mga ghost o overpriced projects naman sa DAR.

Bring back the lost glory, dignity and credibility of our Department; we owe it to the millions of Filipino farmers we vowed to serve.

Abangan ang susunod pang mga katarantaduhan ng mga mafia…

Cyber Education Project: The best response to challenges in Philippine education?

There are two ways to take a critical look at the controversial Cyber Education Project (CEP) (See the slide below). One is the process by which it was crafted and peddled in public. The other is its feasibility in the Philippine context. This article attempts the second.

An ordinary folk surely asks: What is that thing called Cyber Education Project? I don’t have an easy answer but based on my copy of the electronic presentation prepared by the Department of Education (DepEd), which unfortunately does not give a one-liner definition of it, I define it as one that provides basic education to all areas in the country through a satellite technology that connects in real time all DepEd offices and public schools, which use hi-technology multimedia devices to facilitate learning process. (Caveat: This definition has to be checked against the expected reach of the project. See below.)

The project contextualizes itself within the challenges in education, namely, low academic performance of students, significant drop-outs, and big population of out-of-school youths and functionally-illiterate adults. Thirty-percent and 60% of children entering Grade 1 do not finish elementary and high school, respectively. Mentioned in the reasons for drop-outs were lack of pre-school preparation, disinterest in the lessons, poverty, malnutrition, and transportation problems.

The rationale cites the difficulty for the DepEd to service the 9.16 million functional illiterates and 12.24 million illiterate youths and adults with its insufficient resources (800 mobile teachers and 0.17% of the department’s budget used for the alternative learning system).

And here’s the proposed solution: Reach the illiterate youths and adults with the aid of electronic multi-media technology. Better yet, use a satellite technology that connects all schools in real time so that contents and processes are standardized. Thus, the CEP proposal, with China’s Tsinghua University as the major partner to lead in the turn-key setup. The Philippine government will rely on the university’s experience in satellite and long-distance education technologies.

The project targets to benefit not all of the public elementary and secondary schools, though, but only 37,794 or 90%. Only about 70% of the schools will be provided with satellite-based facilities. Likewise, if the slide presentation of DepEd is to be believed, only those “outside the 1st and 2nd class cities” will stand to benefit. I’m sure that this will invite backlash from the education personnel and Mayors of the excluded cities. It is not therefore true that the project will benefit all public schools.

The project also targets to reach at least 13 million students and 800 classes for out-of-school-youths.

To realize this project, a total of P26.48 billion is entailed over five years, with equipment and operating cost taking up the biggest share of the pie. To get the project rolling (for year 1), over P5 billion is required, to be sourced from USD100 million soft loan from the Chinese government plus Philippine government’s counterpart of P1.3 billion. DepEd boasts that the investment per pupil is P1.22 per day compared to P15 per hour spent in an Internet cafe. Over five years, the average cost per student per day is 64 centavos.

The projected impact of the CEP on public education consists of improved student performance, savings of up to P60.3 billion in DepEd operations, and new possibilities for the Philippine education sector.

While they are not averse to the role of ICT to supplement Philippine education, various civil society organizations have already raised their criticisms of the project. These focused on a) the unnecessarily high cost of investments, without really building on the existing or previous ICT projects, b) DepEd’s lack of capacity to handle the project, and c) the project’s apparent romance with ICT for its ability to replace face-to-face education activities. (I have with me the draft briefing paper but I don’t have the permission yet to publish it here.)

I agree 100% on the criticisms. I also want to build on some of their criticisms and add mine. Yes, government is wont to introducing a project as if it were novel and had no relation whatsoever to the related previous ones. The CEP has been packaged as though projects like “PCs for Public Schools”, e-skwela, and GILAS have failed. If indeed these projects have failed, then the more the government has no right to delve into this grandiose, waste-of-money undertaking.

Moreover, the CEP is deemed as though it is a stand-alone project. It doesn’t recognize the roles that other stakeholders should play, like LGUs that should ensure sturdier school buildings and stable supply of electricity in far-flung areas and NGOs that could assist mobile teachers in reaching out to out-of-school adults and youths.

The DepEd lacks more plausible ways of convincing people about the project’s cost of investment. Surely, the claim that tens of billions of pesos will be saved in the deparment’s operations sounds like the savings could be used for other noble purposes. But comparing the cost per pupil from the hourly rental fee of Internet cafes is purely ridiculous. Who in this earth has proposed to the government to subsidize students’ Internet cafe activities? And will the CEP’s studios provide the same serendipitous learning that Internet cafes are able accord their student customers?

The CEP claims to be the best solution in addressing the challenges of in Philippine education, which includes poverty, malnutrition, and transportation problems. But how? I wonder if it can really fill in these gaps. Note that the (additional) 800 classes intended for OSYs are set up right in the elementary schools, not in areas closer to the OSYs. So the project’s claim that it will “provide 12 video channels, wireless wide-area networking, local area networking and wireless internet all in one package to the remotest area of the country” is all but propaganda. Poor, mobile teachers, they’ll remain to fend for themselves.

Now, about the equipment. By estimate, a multimedia classroom will cost almost half a million pesos. That is really high considering that half that amount is sufficient enough. That would reduce the project’s cost by over P5 billion.

Clearly, Congress must hold an inquiry into the CEP. It must give it the same importance it has given to the NBN/ZTE deal. Besides, the CEP and NBN/ZTE are closely linked to each other.

Before the government is allowed to implement this kind of huge project, it must:

  1. Give a full accounting of its ICT projects, including their impact.
  2. Have clear guidelines on how the project will be implemented, including procurement of equipment and the software applications that will be used. The guidelines must be clear about open standards, including the software source codes and document formats.
  3. Come up with a feasibility study, which should include DepEd’s capacity to implement the project as well as the project’s assumptions and risk analysis.

Unless the abovementioned are done, the CEP will be another scam in Philippine history. And no one will bear the brunt but the tax-paying Filipino citizens, rich or poor.

Can activists organize without mobile phones?

The Burmese military government’s recent move against democracy is ‘hi-tech’. It has cut off the phone services of activists and journalists. This developed as the government had feared that another wave of popular protest would unfold through mobile phones. Because of speed and cost efficiency, campaigners have resorted to mobile phones as indispensable tools to spread information aimed at social mobilizations.

Actually, the government showed “a bit of democracy” by announcing the warning first. And then right after that, the cutting off of the mobile services. Of course, members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) were not exempt from the measure. Even their office’s landline phone was disconnected.

I can’t imagine myself living in Burma when my mobile phone would suffer that fate. It’s like having an accident in the middle of the road without any way to call for emergency. Besides, a mobile phone has been a work gadget, without which I would deliver practically nothing.

Catching up with the digital age, activists consider mobile phones as extensions of their hearts and minds. They are their last resort in tough times, when it becomes impossible for them to reach out to their constituencies. But digital age threatened by the ghost of feudalism has to bear with the “glitches” like what Burmese government did. I call it glitch because government will surely think of ways to retain the business of mobile phones while effectively curbing popular protests. (I wonder if Philippine government would do the same disservice to Filipino activists of all hues without any pressure from telcos which would incur loss from it.)

The problem facing the pro-democracy movement in Burma is that government has the monopoly over the telecommunications through Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications. And it will use all its military machine to stop others who’ll attempt to break it. In fact, in 2006, government successfully launched a crackdown on “illegal” importation and use of cheap China-made mobile phones. Even business people use Chinese mobile phones because of the better services.

Let me digress a bit. Can Filipino activists of the second millennium go on with their political lives without their mobile phones? Look, mobile phones do not only provide quick and cost-efficient delivery of information; they also provide a relative security for the info senders in terms of anonymity. I’m not saying that mobile communications are the only way. Mobile phones are tools and they must be seen as only complementing “offline” tasks of activists.

But I’m interested to know whether new-generation activists can really dispense with their mobile phones. Can they instead use a landline, a fax machine? Can they use what they predecessors loved doing–spreading copies of a piece of onion-skin or palara paper folded many times to avoid attention  from the police or enemies because such paper bears incriminating information?

I cannot live without my mobile phone. And I think I will die (or I will kill) if I’m denied connection to the Internet for life.

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Marikina City Hall: Transparent, hi-tech, but…

I’ve always been awestruck by the Marikina City Hall (MCH) since I set foot in it a few years ago. The main attraction is its big atrium, whose glazed roof filters light from the sun into the building’s large space. It greatly symbolizes transparency in the local government. And the see-through glass walls of all offices in the two floors drives home the point even further. If you want to easily monitor council meetings inside the hall, just go upstairs and see from outside the Council Room how your favorite councilor performs. You cannot eavesdrop, though.

I’m not in a position to say that the MCH is the best seat of local government in the Philippines (for the reason that I’ve not gotten inside in any more than a couple). But at the very least, the MCH will surely be among the best.

When I visited the place this afternoon–on instruction by my wife to settle our real property tax and secure a tax clearance, which are required for the individualization of lots in my neighborhood–the feeling grew deeper at the sight of one big change in it: Use of ICTs.

There are a couple of sleek machines that run the employee access control and attendance system, or the equivalent to the bundy clock system.

There is a big computer room (or is it?) in which IT employees do their stuff. I saw a lady that was producing a presentation on how one uses the Marikina City web portal.

A set of standing Internet-ready computers is available for students or visitors who may need to hook up while waiting inside the hall.

The Real Property Tax system, at least, is computerized. The counters are using a web-based application to retrieve and supply data based on transactions with the taxpayers.

I did not go upstairs so there sure were more stuff that I missed.

However, I have to admit that behind my big appreciation for the state of the art are my few reservations. You know me, right? I’m a FOSS guy, so I’m basing everything from that perspective.

The LGU must have spent tens of millions of pesos to acquire and maintain computer hardwares and softwares. In my estimate, there are at least 300 computers being used inside the hall. And I’m not speaking yet of other offices outside, like the Engineering and Health Centers. I’m very much sure that had MCF seen the light of FOSS, she would have opted not to buy Microsoft products in favor of open source equivalents, which require less investments. Look, the tax people are using their computers just to run web-based applications, for which Linux architecture fares much better than Windows.

Oh, not only web-based applications. I saw one tax person ‘crunching numbers’ with Microsoft Excel. I swear that OpenOffice Calc can be as cool, free of charge for software updates.

And for non-ICT stuff. I observed a couple of things that are surely a disgrace to the government. First, the payment receipt system is broken. When I paid for my real property tax, I was given an official receipt. But when I paid for documentary stamps, I was given a small piece of white paper with the Assessor signing on it. Twice I asked for an OR. Twice I was told that doc stamps had no OR. Is this allowed? Hmm.

Second, there is no drinking water for public consumption. Cheap rant, you may say. But to me that’s important. To think that Marikina City’s public water service (in partnership with Manila Water System) is much greater than the old cities in the NCR (which are mostly serviced by Maynilad.) I was not asking for a cup of free coffee or hot chocolate. I just needed a little amount of water to drench my dry throat at that moment after doing a couple of rounds among two counters and a xerox service outside the hall.

 

“Englishization” of Philippine education and governance

Last week, my preggy wife complained about her enervated condition because of the couple of intensive chores she previously did. She was supposed to be the one attending Martin’s school program in commemoration of “Buwan ng Wika” (Month of Filipino Language). Because she could not, I must oblige if reluctantly. I wanted to report to office early.

We didn’t want to fail Martin who was eager to show us how great he is in a group poem recitation about nationalism. So I went, tagging along Josh, who was kicking to go anywhere away from home.

Good thing I did watch the program, which aside from showcasing kids’ talents, on the one hand, and some half-baked numbers, on the other, made me reflect on the theme of the balagtasan (a form of debate wherein a participant needs to argue in verse). It focused on whether the nation should use multiple languages or just one. The arguments were kind of interesting.

Debaters who pushed for multiple languages claimed that:

  1. Filipinos (with Jose Rizal as a shining example) have a God-given flair for speaking or writing many languages and it should be encouraged.
  2. More investors will come to the Philippines.
  3. Filipinos speaking particular dialects are attracted to participate in any national undertaking.
  4. Bilingualism is already accepted. (One debater said: “Wikang Filipino plus wikang banyaga ay kaunlaran sa ating bansa.)

Those who argued for a single language averred that:

  1. Even Rizal said that those who don’t love their mother language are worse than the smell of a rotten fish (“Ang di marunong magmahal sa sariling wika ay mas masahol pa sa malansa at mabahong isda.”)
  2. It lends itself for easy solving of problems even at the national level. Without it, greater problems will arise typical of what happened in the “Tower of Babel.”
  3. It gives the country an identity in the world.
  4. It is a language of love as sweetly spoken in a family and in communities.

The lakandiwa (debate moderator) ended the debate with a win-win conclusive statement that went something like: “Ang pagbigkas ng sariling wika ay isapuso’t isadiwa habang ang paggamit ng maraming wika ay nakatutulong sa kaunlaran ng bansa.” (Speak the national language with all your heart, but use [speak and write] many languages necessary for the nation’s economic progress.)

I don’t know whether the balagtasan was able to influence the thinking of both the teachers and students. I even am not sure whether they did it just for the sake of commemorating the month of the national language. I assume that universities and colleges had a more meaningful observance of the month. I think that the discourse should be focused on how the lingua franca has been used today, thanks to the conflicting policies of the government.

The Constitutional provisions vs. government’s actions

The Philippine Constitution of 1987 provides that the national language of the Philippines is Filipino. Under Article XIV, Sections 6 to 9, the Constitution further provides that:

  • The Filipino language shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.
  • Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, the Government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.
  • For purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English.
  • The regional languages are the auxiliary official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein.
  • The Congress shall establish a national language commission composed of representatives of various regions and disciplines which shall undertake, coordinate, and promote researches for the development, propagation, and preservation of Filipino and other languages.

So what did the government do in accordance with those Constitutional provisions? First, government came up with the Bilingual Education Policy of 1987. It aims to “improve the use of Filipino and English by teaching these languages and by using them in all levels as media of instruction. The country wants its citizens to gain proficiency in Filipino language in order to perform civic duties, and to learn English in order to respond to the needs of the country in the community of nations.” Bilingual education is defined operationally as the separate use of Filipino and English as the media of instruction in specific subject areas. Pilipino (changed to Filipino in 1987) shall be used as medium of instruction in social studies/social sciences, music, arts, physical education, home economics, practical arts and character education. English, on the other hand, is allocated to science, mathematics and technology subjects.

Next, in August 1988, President Cory Aquino promulgated the Executive Order 335 which required all instrumentalities of government to use the Filipino language in official transactions, communications, and correspondence. The order was issued on the belief that the use of Filipino in such functions will “result to a greater understanding and appreciation of government programs, projects and activities throughout the country, thereby serving as an instrument of unity and peace for national progress.”

Then, in 1994, the creation of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) went with it a language policy vis-a-vis medium of instruction, that is:

  1. Language courses, whether Filipino or English, should be taught in that language.
  2. At the discretion of the higher education institution, Literature subjects may be taught in Filipino, English or any other language as long as there are enough instructional materials for the same and both students and instructors/professors are competent in the language.
  3. Courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences should preferably be taught in Filipino.

Lastly, in 2003, President Arroyo promulgated Executive Order 210, which aims to strengthen the use of the English language as a medium of instruction in the educational system. The policies are:

  1. English shall be taught as a second language, starting with the First Grade.
  2. English shall be used as the medium of instruction for English, Mathematics and Science from at least the Third Grade level.
  3. The English language shall be used as the primary medium of instruction in all public and private institutions of learning in the secondary level, including those established as laboratory and/or experimental schools, and non-formal and vocational or technical educational institutions. As the primary medium of instruction, the percentage of time allotment for learning areas conducted in the English language is expected to be not less than seventy percent (70%) of the total time allotment for all learning areas in the secondary level.

It is interesting to note that the motivation for this law were the views that education is a means to “achieve and maintain an accelerating rate of economic development and social progress” and that there is a need to “develop the aptitude, competence and proficiency of our students in the English language to maintain and improve their competitive edge in emerging and fast-growing local and international industries, particularly in the area of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).”

The Englishization of the national language

So there, the government must have been pressured by the international industries to change its language policies. Just because of the big promise of the huge employment opportunities for call centers, government deemed it necessary to instruct all educational institutions to teach and use English all the way. Even under the disguise as secondary language at Grade 1 level, English is still supreme from that level up.

I believe that the Constitution’s pro-Filipino stance goes with it an opening for government to nuance and eventually change that stance. The bilingual policy of 1987 and the “win-win” policy of CHED have practically been changed by EO 210.

I even think that Cory Aquino’s pro-Filipino policy in governance has failed, either. Respect and love for the Filipino language have just become a lip service. Try to visit http://www.gov.ph. The main page includes a link to the Filipino version of the site. If you click that, what you’ll see are just the Filipinized headings. The main content remains in English. I haven’t seen any agency site that at least provides a fully-Filipinized version.

Even as I blog in English (must I explain why?), I still believe that Filipino must remain the national language of the Philippines and it must be reflected in all spheres of the Filipino’s lives. Likewise, the “auxillary” languages, thus, the regional or ethnic dialects, must be respected, nurtured and protected by allowing institutions to use them.

Except for the English subject, Filipino must be used as a medium of instruction at the elementary and high school levels as well as non-formal courses in Tagalog regions. In non-Tagalog regions, regional dialects must (or may?) be used. Then for tertiary education, the CHED policy of 1992 must be retained, thus, allowing the institutions the choice for either Filipino or English but enjoining the use of Filipino in Humanities and Social Sciences.

In governance, let there be an executive order improving on Cory Aquino’s EO 335. Regional civil servants must be trained in the Filipino language to catch up on the Filipinized communications and transactions. Government’s web sites must have complete versions in Filipino and localized languages. I don’t care if that will be costly, if that will contribute to the protection and nurturing of Filipino languages, which are symbols of our culture.

Good thing the Philippine mass media (broadcast news, tabloids, etc.) remain practically un-Englishized. If government wants to be as close to the Filipinos as these media are, then it must change its ways of communicating with them. (I have this inkling that English has been used by the State versus the masses who the former thinks should not understand the real state of things in governance.)

Our Asian neighbors–Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, to name a few–have developed as they are today without Englishizing their mother languages. Indeed, culture and economic progress go hand in hand.

(Note: To know more about the issue, please visit Sawikaan.)

ICT scams: Corruption in the supposed digital age

Have you heard of that computer scam in the making during the election campaign period in April last year? Yes, that was about the bungled acquisition in Albay of Department of Education’s 600 computer units for the price of P150M, or P250,000 per unit. Not too expensive, right?

Thanks to media’s early discovery of this irregularity, the supposed bidding process was pre-empted and therefore botched. (Whatever happened to the P150M then? That’s a question worth more than P150M.)

Had the “acquisition” pushed through, the money would have gone to the “right” hands. And that would have complemented the fertilizer and hybrid-rice scams in the same period.

Later, this year, another scam, this time double-whammy, has hugged the headlines. And we’re not speaking of millions of pesos here, but millions of dollars. First, the $329-million contract between the Philippine government and Chinese corporation ZTE for the installation of a national broadband network connecting all government agencies. From this project, according to the DOTC, government can save P2.51 billion (annually?) compared to the present cost of all telecommunications amounting to P3.5 billion.

In addition, there’s also the $460-million contract again with ZTE for a cyber-education program, which according to inquirer.net’s report, aims “to set up television production and satellite broadcasting facilities at DepEd’s central office and satellite-based facilities in 26,618 schools nationwide, each of which will be provided with a multimedia classroom equipped with four television sets, two desktop computers and a printer. Fifteen- to 20-minute lectures conducted by education experts in all subjects for all grade or year levels will be aired live via satellite to all schools on 12 television channels.”

As ever, the government is currently subjected to public and later legal scrutiny for its alleged violation of anti-graft law and government procurement reform act. For the first, the violation was that government inked a deal during an election period. (The $329-million contract was signed on April 21, 2007 by DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza and Yu Yong, ZTE vice president, in ceremonies witnessed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Boao, China.)

For the second, the violation was that the project did not undergo the tedious bidding process. Despite the two other NBN proposals that offered much lower cost, government still chose that of ZTE allegedly because of huge commission promised by the ZTE to the officials that worked for the deal.

Experts from UP and civil society organizations fear that these two projects will just become white elephants. They said that government does not have the capacity to run such ambitious projects. In the first place, they are not necessary.

So, there. Corruption in this supposed digital age. And it seems to mean that, unless corruption is nipped in the bud, the digital divide is here to stay.