Friday, October 3, 2008

The Shameless Wasting of Public Funds by Philippine DepEd

Hysterical outrage is only a mild form of reaction when we learned that the Department of Education unashamedly squandered its 2007 budget amounting in hundreds of millions of pesos and sold the future of our children to the devils of ignorance and poverty. That government arm seems to be more wicked than the Department of Public Works and Highways. At least the DPWH should now be applauded as lesser evil among legions of vampires in Arroyo's empire compared to its cousin, the Department of Misappropriation, or DepEd, for short.

A review of DepEd's 2007 budget, the Congressional Planning and Budget Department (CPBD) found, shows shocking festival of wasted public funds. DepEd, if the CPBD's report were to be believed, sucked the last blood of the country's hope of improving the lives of our people through globally competitive education by buying garbage educational tools and spending totally worthless projects.

"Information and multi-media equipment packages amounting to no less than P667.95 million were neither utilized nor maximized for classroom instructions in 13 regions because they were either defective or distributed to schools which were not strictly selected in accordance with the approved criteria, resulting in the wasteful storage or utilization of the units," the CPBD reported as bannered by GMA News TV this week.

Perhaps DepEd's top officials have not heard of the globalization buzz. That in order to be highly competitive in today's borderless business environment and free world market, every country must embrace the power of technology and information superhighway. Neglect technological advancement and the country will be doomed to extinction in today's digital era.

DepEd is exactly putting the country in the path of economic destruction. By depriving our children of high-tech tools, DepEd is cutting off our children's bridge to the future.

Another shocking revelation is that "84,254 sets of tables and chairs and 150,748 armchairs costing P197 million were allocated to 2,777 elementary and 899 secondary schools that already had adequate seat provisions from 2004-2007 instead of giving them to 2,764 elementary and secondary schools with acute seat shortages," again as reported by GMA News TV.

As if the parade of DepEd's cannibalism isn't long enough, this Department of Misappropriation caused "the number of undistributed textbooks (to have) decreased from 2006 to 2007, a total of 1,275,056 copies of unused textbooks or manuals costing at least P57.3 million remained stored in school stockrooms or libraries in 2007."

The CPBD, as reported by GMA News, also found that "acute classroom shortages in 2,929 schools were also left unaddressed because school building projects worth at least P597.796 million were spent instead on 1,329 school sites that had the least need for buildings and classrooms."

By next year, by the way, our shameless DepEd will get a huge pie of the national budget at P167.94 billion. Will DepEd forget that in 2008 it received P149.25 billion and much of it went down the drain?

Who will be held responsible for such heartless wastage of public funds? Not our ordinary teachers, of course. They don't hold the pen that signs blood-stained government contracts. Our school teachers are already suffering from low salary and they have become innocent hosts to DepEd's wicked schemes.

If no one would be sent to jail and DepEd would continue to bask in barbaric waste, the country is in extreme danger of losing its competitiveness in the world. Our national economy has been sustained by remittances of Filipinos working abroad. Today's children, admittedly, are tomorrow's OFWs . Once our education system becomes a horror picture of wasteland, not only that we would lose opportunities in the booming outsourcing industry, we would also lose our attractiveness as excellent source of manpower abroad.

DepEd's immoral, if not absolutely demonic, habit of wasting public funds has far-reaching consequences in both short and long terms. Our people, by all means, should stop DepEd from killing our nation softly. - Editorial, The Bohol Standard

Philippine Martial Law: Will it Happen Again?

September is one month wherein Filipinos don't want to remember an event but cannot quite forget.

The Dictator Ferdinand Marcos - on September 21, 1972 - declared Martial Law and ruled the country with an iron hand for 14 years.

There is a theory that goes around the bars that Marcos, in his insecurity and fear of America, could not have declared Martial Law without the blessings of Washington. That might be true.

For the 1970s was the height of the Cold War and the communist bogey was often used to scare national leaders that the Reds were knocking at the walls of the nation's capital, ready to grab power by the power of the gun.

But the very cruelty of Martial Law, far from solving the communist insurgency embittered more people that led to the swelling of the ranks of the New People's Army to 250,000 then Marcos, therefore, was branded then - as the best "recruiter of the NPA."

That 250,000 NPA force then is now the equivalent number of the entire personnel of the present Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) today. In turn, the Jabidah Massacre and the slash and burn episodes against the Muslim rebels also escalated the fratricidal war between brother Christians and Muslims.

The entire duration of the country during Martial Law was spent for the country to be perpetually in a state of war.

Consistent with anti-people battles waged in Latin America, many Filipinos disappeared or were assassinated in the old version of the Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) perpetrated by a militant rightist quasi-military group - in the hallowed name of democracy. The Government, then, believed that its duty was to preserve democracy, not to practice it.

The Supreme Court was littered by lapdogs whose Chief Justice's main mission in life was to hold the umbrella to protect the First Lady Imelda Marcos' porcelain face during warm public appearances. The whole Judiciary system was co-opted.

Equally compromised were the local government officials - beholden - by force or circumstance to support the Waltzing Dictators by the Palace while the Congress, in the form of the decadent Batasan Pambansa was an instrument to manufacture rules that made the Dictatorship function.

The business community was run by a Group of Zaibatsus, moneyed and influential families that gobbled for themselves, kin and associates the entire economic wealth and opportunities of the nation. Protected by tariffs and political influence, they bloated into inefficient white elephants that gravely prejudiced the economy.

Except in the later stages of Martial Law, Philippine Media was the epitome of political bias and vastly personal and compromised. It was a shameful episode that out-pushed democratic space and freedom of expression into the gutter. The political debate leading to maturity was in limbo - producing great illiteracy and lack of integrity of political mindsets.

The Military became the sledge hammer that pulverized the nation into submission. They were rewarded with positions of wealth and power. They had to be pampered to keep the Dictatorship in power.

Corruption may not have been as widespread as today - but the graft was concentrated among a few people (Marcos and kin) and empires identified with the Palace called cronies. Many of them, including Imelda Marcos who was identified as a major plunderer are still alive today - prancing with the fruits of their dishonesty. And the whole nation bowed its head then - as if they thanked the Heavens for the ironic gift of suffering and oppression.

Roads and bridges were built - justifying Marcos despotic rule. The truth was, it was in Marcos Martial Law years that the country lagged behind its neighbors in infrastructure that largely explained the lamented state of poverty of the people then and today.

Only Filipino art and culture prospered with Pinoy music and indigenous arts and crafts.

The Cultural Center, the Folk Arts Theater and the Film Center were built. The world-class Heart, Lung and Kidney centers were erected in Quezon City.

Meantime, the white elephant Bataan Nuclear Plant was constructed at the cost of billions - only to have it today as a useless monument of corruption, useless and unutilized.

Political opposition were either jailed or murdered and the electoral process was prostituted by a Comelec that did not know how to count numbers.

All in all, it was a period of shame. We lost our confidence. We lost our sense of identity. We were no longer free Filipinos but part-time slaves.

We remember those times of Martial Law to grieve over our loss and spark our vigilance - that never again should we allow the specter of Martial Law to ever come to pass over our country in our lifetime.

That GMA's Rule has been likened to Martial Law II - without its formal declaration - by some quarters is proof we have short memories.

Remember Santayana who said "that those who do not learn their lessons from their mistakes in history - are bound to repeat them." - Editorial, The Bohol Chronicle

Philippine Tarsier Facing Extinction

The world famous tarsier, which has become a signature of the Philippines' eco-tourism promotion , is threatened extinction as more and more of them are seen in captivity.

The plight of the tarsiers turned into an urgent concern for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Provincial Tourism Council (PTC) agreeing that there is a need to enforce stringent regulations for the hunting of the small primates and putting them on cages for viewing of tourists.

In an interview with the Chronicle, provincial environment and natural resources officer Nestor Canda said they have noted an increase in the number of tarsiers being captured which could cause the fast dwindling population of the world's smallest primate.

Per estimates, there are only about 700 tarsiers in Bohol's forests found in the towns of Corella, Loboc, Sevilla and Bilar.

The public are also concerned on the commercialization of the tarsier especially those who make money out of it at the Loboc River.

Some collectors have also a taken aim at the shy creatures that are allegedly being sold for P600 in Manila .

According to Canda, they will be recording the number of tarsiers in captivity and monitor deaths and may recommend for cancellation of registered operators who do not comply with the safety of the tarsiers as required in their registration papers.

The DENR also has to determine if the tarsiers are bred in captivity or captured from the wild.

PTC chair Peter Dejaresco disclosed over Inyong Alagad yesterday that there is a need to monitor the plight of the tarsiers which is classified as an endangered specie by the DENR.

Without protection programs, the tarsier population will be critically low that it could become extinct in a few years, Dejaresco added.

Very few tarsiers, which are nocturnal creatures, survive in captivity since they are subjected to stress in the presence of humans.

Loboc Mayor Leon Calipusan also assured that in the coming years, they will be requiring operators to replicate a forest habitat for the tarsiers that are being captured for tourist-viewing.