Archive for May, 2011

Saying NO to ROTC is keeping oneself away from the stain of the military stigma

In an article entitled “Freshmen urged to enroll in ROTC” which appeared in the second page of Baguio Midland Courier’s May 22 issue, ( the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps program under the National Service Training Program under the tertiary curriculum was promoted.

In the article, Colonel Nick Alarcio said that the ROTC program “shall promote civic consciousness among the youth and shall develop their physical, moral spiritual, intellectual and social well-being.” However, in another part of the article, it said that the ROTC “is designed to motivate, train, organize and mobilize them for national defense preparedness.”

This second quotation gave us the point of entry in criticizing this promotion of ROTC. While the claim of the military men backing up the program seems a viable point on the surface, this does not match with the actual practice of the program. The military’s main convincing factor is that ROTC instills rigid discipline among students, hence, making it a worthwhile program to enroll in. But in practice, the ROTC is only being used by the military in their favor.

To begin with, it is already worth-questioning why does the military concern itself with the system of education in the country. If we ask this, we will only prove the veracity of the claim that the military has vested interests in promoting ROTC among college students. ROTC can be used as a breeding ground for student intelligent networks inside campuses whose goal is to demonize the image of legitimate student leaders.  In that way, they can guard and even paralyze the activities of student leaders who are only identified to be at the forefront of student mobilizations and actions regarding national and local issues.

Also, ROTC is reprehensible because it subtly inculcates not only a military-like discipline but also a military-like mentality among its students. This mentality is rooted on protecting the interests of the higher officials, from the army or the government, even if they are in the wrong. The program also fosters the rigid hierarchies present among the ranks of military which often lead to power-tripping and exploitation of others.

It is from these grounds that the CEGP Baguio-Benguet opposes the ROTC and discourages students to enroll under this program.



Not too late to uncover a myth: Why KPlus 12 does not address the real problems in education?

Starting next June, the Department of Education (Deped) will begin its implementation of the Kindergarten Plus 12 program which seeks to prolong the basic education of the Filipinos and purport to “get them into the best universities and best jobs after graduation and give them an even chance at succeeding.”

Under this program, the Kindergarten level will be offered in elementary schools among five-year old children. Then, starting the school year 2012-13, a new curriculum will be applied at the elementary level which will remain at six years. After this, four years of junior high school and two years of senior high school will complete one’s basic education. According to the administration, this program shall make every Filipino graduate have a “meaningful life” and be “productively employed.”

On the surface, the goals of this program seem desirable. However, there are factors that need to be considered in relation to this program but are usually left undiscussed. To begin with, the situation of the education sector in the country is presently in the dumps. The easiest manifestation of this is the fund that is allocated to the sector. In the 1.64 trillion total budget this year, only 23.4 billion were allotted for education. This is far from the recommendation of the UNESCO: the budget for educations shall be equal to at least 6% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. This deficit has led to an estimated shortage of 152,569 classrooms, more than 95 million textbooks and 103 thousand teachers for the upcoming school year. Before the KPlus12 can achieve its lofty ambitions, the Deped first needs to address the problems these shortages pose.

Another issue is the framework of this program. The President keeps on emphasizing that the KPlus12 will make Filipinos “globally competitive” as they will be trained well in the course of their education. This “global competitiveness” seems to go well with the neoliberal path that the Aquino’s administration strives to tread. KPlus12 is being pushed only to encourage the current trend of Filipino graduates working abroad for a shot at a better life. As the idea behind the 12-year basic education cycle is patterned after the United States, this new program can also more justifiably westernize our curricula and subtly reinforce colonial mentality among the Filipino students.  Slowly, it becomes deeply ingrained to every Filipino graduate to work abroad and seek “greener pastures” instead of staying in the country and pursue a career that can help towards national development.

This leads us to another point: the “productive employment” which is also being highly touted by the proponents of KPlus12. If what they deem to be productive in terms of employment is working abroad, then their ways of thinking are undeniably in awry. Encouraging its citizens to work abroad  not only deprive them of the chance to gain a decent living within their own country but also conceal from them the real problem that compel them to work off shores at the first place. The real problem is that there are scarce job opportunities in this country since we do not have our own industries and we only depend on foreign investors who exploit our natural resources and cheap human labor on the blind side. For instance, instead of developing the shoe industry in Marikina, we keep on supporting foreign shoe brands like Nike and Adidas. In that sense, we are more in favor of a foreign industry than that of our own. As a result, the growth of our own industries is always stunted and the chance of having greater employment opportunities in the country is foiled as well. Presently, an estimated 4.23 million of the work force population do not have jobs.  Not yet included here are the cases of underemployment: jobs that do not match the skills and educational attainment of individuals and do not compensate them enough to have a decent living. With the boom of the call center industry, most graduates fall under this occupation. However, this job, aside from the drastic lifestyle changes needed to survive in it, also does nothing significant in contributing to the country’s progress since these companies are mostly foreign-owned.

Ultimately, we give no thumbs up for the KPlus12 program that is to be executed starting next month, at the opening of classes nationwide. The intertwined issues in education and employment cannot be solved by more time spent inside classrooms that are supposed to train students better. These can be addressed by giving the priority the education sector deserves, and sufficient funds that will kill age-old textbooks, lack of facilities and underpaid teachers who are the more direct instruments of learning. After which, decent and well-compensated jobs shall be available in the country. This can only happen if we have our own industries and we encourage our graduates to work in the country and help in its development. And despite of all the ambitiousness and the seeming good intentions of the KPlus12 program, it simply does not promote the preceding premises.


Back to School: Back to Band-aid Solutions?

In three weeks time, classes will resume in schools once again. As early as the start of this month, enrollment has begun in public and private schools all over the country.

Meanwhile, starting May 16, most public schools both in the elementary and high school levels have started the Brigada Eskwela program. Under this program, teachers, parents, students and other volunteers troop to the public schools and prepare the vicinity for the upcoming opening of classes. These preparations include repairing damaged facilities, repainting doors, windows and black boards, and doing an overall cleaning of the rooms. Usually touted to be a prime token of the Filipino spirit of Bayanihan, the Brigada Eskwela has become a staple practice among public schools in the country weeks before a new school year reopens.

However, the College Editor Guild of the Philippines believes that the Brigada Eskwela conceals the bigger problem that needs to be addressed. Although, this practice is good in itself, it should not prevent us from recognizing that the problem in education cannot be remedied by annual clean-ups and Bayanihan practices. The problem is that the government does not give the priority which the education sector deserves. This is most notable in the budget that is allocated for this basic social service. While the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO) and the International Commission on Education recommend that the budget allocation for education should be at par with at least 6% of a country’s Gross Domestic Product, the recent governments have been consistently allocating one third of this recommendation. The lack of funds for the education sector has resulted to a poor quality of education in the country. Proof to this are the low quality facilities in public schools, substandard textbooks, low salary of teachers among others.

Ultimately, as a new school year approaches and school administrators and parents prepare for it, the Guild is forwarding the call to raise the budget allotted for the sector of education. The Brigada Eskwela is no different from the other band-aid solutions consistently formulated by the government in addressing the needs of the people. What we need is a more tangible and more long-term solution that will give more than temporary relief to the Filipino people.


Bin Laden dies but struggle to end terrorism and Human right violations in the country continues

 Osama Bin Laden, the presumed mastermind behind the horrifying 9/11 attack nearly a decade ago was killed last Monday, causing a great stir all over the world. Most especially to the Americans, Bin Laden’s death finally laid justice to the thousands which have beenkilled in the ruthless 9/11 attack. All over the world, his death is considered as a prized triumph against terrorism.

In the Philippines, the government alerted their armed forces to prepare for a possible retaliation from Al Qaeda’s associate groups in the country.

The Guild welcomes this event as an extinguishing of a burden in the security and human rights of the people. However, specifically in the country, the Guild is standing firm that we should not be overwhelmed by Bin Laden’s death, touting it as a big blow against terrorism. In our country, terrorism has a deceptive face. It is the terrorism sustained by those who are supposed to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens – the state.

Since the term of Gloria Arroyo and up to now in Noynoy Aquino’s regime, the government has never flinched in violating human rights and pulverizing its identified critics. This is the terrorism that all of us must be warier of. The more publicized cases of the Morong 43 which have been detained illegally for several months and Leonard Co, a botanist who was shot dead last year are only two of the many human rights violations perpetrated by the government. Often, the people arrested or killed are purported to be members of the New People’s Army. Like last March, Rodel Estrellado, farmer and a member of Bayan-Muna Partylist Sorsogon Chapter was abducted in the town’s market before being killed.  In Mindoro, Mangyan communities have recently experienced intimidation from the military. Amidst threats of large-scale miners and dam builders, armed military men were in sight during the Mangyan Day last April 15.  Here in our region, the disappearance of James Balao, member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance who actively fought for the rights and welfare of indigenous peoples, has remained unsolved after two and a half years.

So will terrorism eventually die down after Bin Laden’s death? Here in the country, the answer is certainly no. Terrorism here is not committed by supposedly lawless elements that wield guns and harass civilians. Mostly, terrorism is perpetrated by the state itself, which is eternally protective of their interests and will do its best to stifle progressive elements trying to expose their evils.



Tales of lost gold: the mining situation in the Cordilleras and the need for collective action


The Cordillera region, nestled at the northern part of the country, is undeniably a perfect exemplification of the richness of the Philippines. With the entire region covering more than 1.8 million hectares, it has the widest and most densely settled area of mountains in the Philippines. This mountainous region, estimated to be 230 kilometers long and 120 kilometers wide, is a house to affluent river and hydro resources and chief mineral resources.

            The entire land area of the Cordilleras only covers 6% of the country’s total land area yet it also contains vast ore reserves, 25% of which are gold-bearing and 39% are copper-bearing. Aside from these two important metallic minerals, manganese and non-metallic minerals like limestone, silica, slate, sand and gravel also teem in the region.

However, despite these glaring statistics that can be easily associated with natural affluence and subsequently, progress, lay an irony that is sadly not in favor of the Cordillera indigenous people. The abundant natural resources situated in the region are not being put under the administration of the very people who populate the place. Instead, they are being controlled and exploited by foreign entities and expectedly, the profits gleaned from these resources are likewise monopolized by these entities. From here, this basic ironic relation between the two groups of people – the indigenous people of Cordillera who have nurtured and protected their own land, tradition and culture and the foreign entities who unabashedly plunder the resources of other people under the pretense of aid and development – must be a noted contradiction. Because while this contradiction is being sustained and continuously becoming more pointed, the need for an action to settle the inequalities lying at this contradiction becomes more urgent.

At this point, it is vital to review relevant events in the past that, in one way or another, have contributed in the continuation and pejoration of this condition.


The Philippine Mining Act of 1995

In the middle of the 90s which was deemed to be the darkest in the Ramos regime because of its characteristically neo-liberal economic policies, the Philippine Mining Act was approved. It was during this time when basic social services like water and electricity, supposedly free and subsidized by the government, were made for private entities to shoulder. Consequently, the prices that need to be paid to avail of these services suddenly increased steeply. In another case, it was also in this period when the notorious Oil Deregulation Law was passed. This law enabled the private oil companies to dictate the price of oil, a necessary commodity from which almost all the other products essential to human activities rely on, and hence, deregulating oil price.

In essence, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 is no different to the previous two laws passed in Ramos’ term. In a nutshell, this act liberalized the mining industry in the country. This was achieved by allowing foreign enterprises to completely administer and control mining operation in the country. Notably, the act also encourages foreign entities to enter this venture and implicitly permits them to execute large-scale mining, a known cause of environmental degradation. In that sense, this only served to legitimize and justify not only ecological destruction but also the rampant manipulation of our natural resources by profit-oriented foreigners. As of 2007, 1.2 million out of the total 1.8 million hectares that the region covers have been placed under 269 mining applications. It is no wonder that the once vast resources of the region are swiftly being denuded. But at the inner core of this saddening event is the fact that this denudation is being done and benefiting outsiders and not the inhabitants of the land.

A present problem

The latest proof of the problematic results of this kind of relationship is the current situation of Lepanto miners in Mankayan, Benguet. Last December, the workers of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company have decided to conduct a strike as a display of protest again the plight which they have been experiencing for several months already. A Lepanto miner only gets to earn 420 to 438 pesos in a day, far from the 573 cost of decent living in the Cordillera region. More importantly, this is a ridiculous compensation considering the earnings of the company which reach millions in a day.

Another  pointed case in Lepanto is the overt militarization which is being experienced  by members of the community. This is being perceived by the workers as a tactic to suppress the growth of their movement and their calls for more just payments and work benefits.  Members of the military, whether in uniform or not, can freely roam around the community. Usually, they end up taking pictures of presumed members of labor movements. This can go as far as designating someone as a member of the New People’s Army only to justify his or her arrest or execution.

Lastly, the Lepanto incident is also a perfect microcosmic example of what is happening to the entire Cordillera – environmental degradation and the loss of resources at a rate faster than its replenishment. In a report released by Indigenous Portal last 2009, the construction of Tailings Dams 1 and 2 in Mankayan has caused large areas of land to be unsuitable for agricultural use. In 1999, a landslide near another Tailings Dam has occurred. This covered the 14 hectares of agricultural land which have become unusable after the incident. Even the Mankayan Elementary School was covered by the landslide. Furthermore, the chemicals emanating from the mining sites affect the well-being of the Lepanto population, making them more prone to dizziness, stomach aches, eye irritation and vomiting. Worse, the water flowing in Abra River was proven to be contaminated by lead and copper, rendering previously normal activities being done here like swimming or washing clothes as highly dangerous.

The Urgent call for collective action and resistance

Without a doubt, the Cordilleran people in general are under the assault of rude foreign intervention and exploitation. With their lands being robbed, their traditional cultures being erased from their consciousness and their inherent rights as indigenous people of their native land being taken away from them, it is an imperative for the Cordillerans to rediscover their aptitude in defending what is theirs and warding off outsiders from their territories. Only by reuniting their causes and staging a collective act of resistance can they succeed in trampling down on foreigners who aim to seek greater profit from the natives’ resources. History has shown us that only through collective action can bring us to a dramatic and genuine change.

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