Food for thought
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - January 26, 2014 - 12:00am

It was a week when the public was treated to the Senate version of entertainment in the form of hearings leading nowhere and privileged speeches that were both amusing and embarrassing to watch.

But last Wednesday, I attended a DepEd sponsored event that reminds us of the tremendous potential of public-private partnership in uplifting the quality of life of the poorer sectors of Philippine society. It was also a reminder that there are still many Filipinos, in both the public and the private sector, that truly care about the less fortunate and understand that the path to a life of human dignity is through education.

The event was called “Post Yolanda Rebuilding: A Gathering of Partners.” According to Br. Armin Luistro, Education Secretary, foreign aid observers had told him that their experience in other devastated areas like Haiti and Sumatra showed that it would take almost two years before schools could be reopened.

But Br. Luistro and P-Noy had decided that in less than six months schools would start being reopened in the areas hit by Typhoon Yolanda. Luistro added, in his opening remarks, that one of the clearest evidence a community was returning to normal was the sight of school children lining up to sing the national anthem and then marching into their classrooms.

In this massive and ambitious effort, Br. Luistro has asked for the help of business and NGO leaders. The Wednesday event was the occasion for different leaders to sign commitments to build specific number of classrooms with specific locations. The Secretary, however, added that since the sponsors were donating classrooms already maybe they would be willing to build walkways and toilets. In that single afternoon, my understanding was that those present signed commitments for 747 classrooms aside from cash and other forms of assistance. However, DepEd also announced that the private sector had already committed to rebuild or repair 3,467 classrooms in the Visayas region.

Among the private partners present were Richard Tantoco, COO of the Energy Development Corp., Lorenzo Tan, RCBC president, Babes Simpao, chair of the Security Bank Foundation, Tina Munzon-Palma of the ABS-CBN Foundation, Rapa Lopa of the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation and Br. Kenneth Martinez, president of De La Salle-Lipa.

Among the other organizations represented in the signing ceremonies were Lockton-Philippines Insurance and Reinsurance Brokers, Coca-Cola Foundation, SM Foundation, PhilAm Life, Meralco and Rotary International.

Vic Valledor, president and CEO of Lockton Philippines Insurance Brokers, one of the donors has some advice for potential donors. The first step is to get in touch with the Department of Education through email, The person in charge is Undersecretary Mario Derequito. After meeting with officials of the Department and getting inputs on potential schools to sponsor, try to visit your chosen site and to see for yourself the current state of the school and the classrooms.

Vic Valledor told me he personally visited Matlang Elementary School in Sabel, Leyte before making the commitment. He also suggests that the sponsor get a copy of the new engineering standards the Department of Education will enforce for the new buildings so that in case you want to upgrade the structure, the sponsor will know the baseline requirements. According to him, their initial but unofficial estimate for a 2-classroom building with complete fixtures and contents is around P1.4 million. However, this may vary depending on the specific design and the supplier for the labor and materials.

During the gathering, the pledges from each sponsor ranged from 2 classrooms to hundreds or even rebuilding an entire school. But I could see that Br. Armin Luistro welcomed each donor with equal enthusiasm regardless of the donation size.

This Adopt-A-School Program gives the private sector the opportunity to give each and every Filipino a chance to enjoy his or her right to education, open their eyes to the wonders and challenges of the world, and pursue their dreams to become engineers, scientists, businessmen, artists, doctors or even future presidents. More important it will give us an educated citizenry necessary for our goal of becoming a progressive nation.

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While the Post Yolanda Gathering of Partners was inspiring and restores our faith in the goodness and concern for the common good of most Filipinos, the so-called Revilla “privilege speech” was on the opposite end of spectrum. It’s hard to find the right words to describe that event.

Was it a comedia or a zarzuela, or perhaps just a scene from a poorly written “B” movie? There are fantastic Tagalog movies like the ones directed by Lino Brocka, Eddie Romero and Peque Gallaga. Then there are the ones that as you watch you begin by being amused, then cannot help but laugh at the most dramatic moments. But somewhere during the whole experience (or privilege speech), you begin to cringe with embarrassment and you want to tell the actor to please stop embarrassing himself.

My suggestion to Bong Revilla is to fire his scriptwriter. When the Revillas decided that the plot would be to pit their family’s credibility against the credibility not only of P-Noy but Ballsy and Eldon, there was just no way this movie would be taken seriously by anyone who is serious. My only message to P-Noy is that this whole episode is not even worth getting irritated over.

The word “senate” comes from ancient Rome which called for an assembly of the senior and thus wiser members of society. In fact, the word is derived from Latin “senatus” which comes from “senex” or old man who is supposed to possess wisdom.

Wisdom implies possession or seeking of knowledge. It requires control of one’s emotional reactions or passions, so that universal principles, values, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one’s actions. From the encyclopedia, wisdom is “a disposition to find truth coupled with an optimum judgment as to right actions.” Its synonyms include prudence, sagacity, discernment or insight.

If the Senate cannot be a group of men and women possessing wisdom, then there is nothing to distinguish them from the other house of Congress. What then is the point of having a Senate?

Just food for thought for the next senator planning to give a privilege speech.

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