Tuesday, February 23, 2016

LGUs have but a cameo role in our youth’s education and development

By Alfredo C. Garvida, Jr.
Education, so they say, "is the most conventional way to get out of poverty." The Philippine State thus recognizes this maxim as our Constitution provides on Section 13 of Art. II, otherwise known as the Declaration of Principles and State Policies, that “The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being." Supplemental to this policy is Section 17 of the same Article, which provides that "The State shall give priority to education, science and technology, arts, culture and sports to foster patriotism and nationalism, accelerate social progress, and promote human liberation and development.”

This writer came across an incident last month involving, yes, education, that led me to seek further answer regarding the role and involvement of local government units relevant to these mandates imposed on them—as agents of the State—by our fundamental law. 

My daughter, Renee, was one of the 12 lucky students from the Bangui National High School (BNHS) who qualified in a provincial qualifying journalism contest to represent the province in the regional journalism competition that was held in Pangasinan last month. Obviously, I was elated given that she was the lone entry from her school to compete in English writing, something I like doing myself.  

She asked me to give her P3,500 for this purpose, to cover registration, transportation, food and accommodation. I told her in return that this was supposed to be shouldered by the school or the municipal government which they could source out from the Special Education Fund (SEF) that is provided by law to be obligatorily given to the Local School Board at the beginning of the year. She told me in return, too, that their teachers had advised them that the municipal government of Bangui or the school for that matter could not provide them the fund at that time—that the parents therefore had to bear their expenses for this purpose. 

My activist instinct abruptly seized my judgment that I called Mr. Nerio Pascual, the president of the Parents Teachers Association of BNHS, and discussed with him the situation whereupon I suggested that he should accompany me to get an audience with Mr. Luis Curammeng, the principal of the school, to get a confirmation of my daughter's narrative so that if this were true we could make representation with Bangui Mayor Diosdado Garvida to remedy the dilemma facing the students. We did get an audience with Mr. Curammeng but he told us readily, and confidently too, that the situation had been solved internally in the school that there was no cause for worry from then on. Obviously, we were relieved, and I told my daughter about the good news. 

Mr. Pascual and I had surmised that the school must have sourced the fund—and rightfully so—from their Miscellaneous Operating and Other Expense (MOOE) for this purpose. The MOOE is part of the budgetary allocation provided by the national government to the school annually to sustain its operation and live up to its mandate to provide better educational service to their students. The Bangui National High School, with 862 student population for the school year 2015-2016, had an allocation of Php1,390,000 for MOOE, along with P13,678,000 for personnel salary.  

The student delegation thus went to Mangaldan on a Saturday morning, two days prior to the start of the competition. At 4:30 a.m. of Sunday, however, I received a call from Renee, asking me to immediately send her P3,500 because Mrs. Kathleen Fandag, the head of the teaching force who accompanied the kids, was asking her to turn in her contribution. I was flabbergasted, naturally, not only because of Mr. Curammeng's apparent unfaithfulness to truth, but also on the judgment of Mrs. Fandag to unsettle the mind and emotion of her students on the eve of the contest. I was asking why the principal lied to us. I was asking why Mrs. Fandag did not collect the fee while the students were still in Bangui. Was she trying to set them up into a situation where the students had no other way to go but give in since they were already in the competition venue—akin to giving up everything you got to a highway robber in exchange for your life? Finally, I was asking if I erred in putting the educational imperatives for my daughter in the hands of educators with faulty moral dispositions.

Since Mr. Curammeng was out of town for a conference, I called up Mrs. Sagucio, the next ranking teacher to the principal, for answers. She got back with me after 15 minutes and assured me that the situation in Mangaldan had been settled. 

I should have been relieved, but I was not. The thought of my daughter being barred from participating in the writing contest on account of non-payment of the fee kept swinging uncomfortably in my imagination given the previous dispositions of Mrs. Fandag and the principal. Fortunately, Mrs. Sagucio's representation was correct and my daughter indeed participated in the competition without further hitch. I found out later however that Mrs. Fandag was able to collect the fees from the parents, contrary to my shared belief with Mr. Pascual that the school had used their MOOE for this exigency. I wondered then if Mr. Curammeng deliberately pulled my leg to terminate then my inquisitiveness on the matter at issue or Mrs. Fandag and her co-teachers who accompanied the kids to Mangaldan pulled his. I wondered who was made a fool out of this mess. Mrs. Fandag, by the way, has been reported to be on a soliciting spree to finance her personal objective to put tiles on her school room. I also remember her soliciting from parents of the students she was in charge of for a comfort room project about three years ago. I remember this, for I was one of the parents who contributed to the project. I asked her during the last PTA meeting if the CR was already finished, and she said yes, but reports have reached me that the CR, while operational, is still incomplete as of this writing. 

We are not here to disparage the good name of Mrs. Fandag, but there is an existing ordinance, numbered 5-03-04, of the Municipality of Bangui that prohibits unlawful solicitations from students and their parents, which includes such solicitation for the CR project. I know about the ordinance because I was the one who wrote and sponsored it for passage when I was a member of the Sangguniang Bayan of Bangui. By some twist of fate, the ordinance was passed on third reading on June 21, 2004 and approved by the Municipal Mayor on July 7, 2004 to become a law. My term as SB member ended on June 30, 2004, therefore, I was no longer a member of the SB when the ordinance was approved, henceforth, I had no more business verifying if what was approved was what we passed on third reading. 

The ordinance's approved text is a crucial issue on the question of why I acquiesced to contributing to Mrs. Fandag's CR project despite its apparent violation of the ordinance I wrote. The reason being that I am almost positive that the ordinance had a provision that exempts solicitations otherwise considered as unlawful if the classroom PTA or the school PTA approves the same. The classroom PTA approved Mrs. Fandag's solicitation for the CR, that's why I also contributed to the cause. What is so shocking is that when I went to the SB office this week to secure copy of the ordinance, I found out that the exempting provision, i.e., the PTA approval, was not contained in the ordinance's text. My brain went flat on my head, for the ordinance that was approved on third reading was not what was reflected on its text for the mayor's approval.  

The lesson here, therefore, is that Mrs. Fandag violated the law when she solicited funds from the parents for the CR., and she will likewise violate the law if she will solicit funds from her students or their parents for her ambitious tiling project on her school room. As it turned out, therefore, the only items allowed by this ordinance to be solicited from parents or students are for "funds that the students themselves will later use or for the use of students representing the school in athletic and academic competitions; donations for humanitarian reasons; and donations for the Red Cross, Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts of the Philippines."

(To be continued)

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