FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - October 30, 2018 - 12:00am

On successive days last week, the US was swept by a wave of hate crimes. Individuals who represent various stripes of Donald Trump’s political base perpetrated these crimes.

Midweek, a white gunman tried to barge into a church attended by black people. Failing to gain entry, he marched to a nearby convenience store and shot dead two elderly black citizens.

A day after that, authorities arrested a man of Filipino ancestry but who identified himself as white. The man was responsible for sending homemade bombs through the mail to prominent critics of Trump. The suspect lived in a van peppered with stickers reflecting all the hateful taglines peddled by the American president.

Last Saturday, another white gunman spewing anti-Semitic language barged into a synagogue in Pittsburg and murdered 11 worshippers. It is considered the worst anti-Semitic mass shooting on record.

To be sure, the three men involved in these hate crimes could not be described as fully sane. But they selected their targets and crossed the line to mayhem guided by the hateful political rhetoric plaguing American politics today.

Donald Trump rejects any suggestion he might have anything to do with the wave of hate crimes we saw last week. Instead he blamed the media for what happened.

Earlier last week, a man groped his fellow airplane passenger. Apprehended for the act, he claimed to be inspired by Trump (who, in that scandalous Hollywood Access tape infamously said it was alright to grab women by their private parts.) 

Of course, strictly speaking, Trump was not directly responsible for the actions of that pathetic groper. Nor was he, strictly speaking, responsible for the actions of extreme white nationalists who wanted to kill black people, murder Jews or decapitate the leadership of the Democratic Party by mailing improvised explosive devices.

But he fuels the climate that pushes morons to commit hate crimes. He panders to the extremist rightwing elements, those precisely responsible for the spate of hateful violence.

Trump appeals to the most feeble-minded. He and his rightwing supporters in the conservative media feed off lies and conspiracy theories. The seriously inarticulate American president thinks he can score political points by denigrating those who do not agree with him.

He has none of the virtues that will allow healing of the deep divisions besetting American society.  With Trump there, we are consigned to waiting, with bated breath, for the next atrocity to happen.


They may not be objects of hate. But certainly our public schoolteachers are objects of discrimination.

Believing our schoolteachers are incapable of making the right choice in their personal financial affairs, the DepEd excluded them in the decision-making culminating in the department’s Order No. 5. Invoking a section in the 2018 General Appropriations Act, the DepEd established a mandatory order of preference for the salary deductions intended to pay down their borrowings. Previous to this order, salary deductions were made according to which debt was incurred first.

Without consulting the teachers, the DepEd order gives first preference to borrowings from the GSIS. This is probably justifiable. The department is protecting the public pension fund by ensuring prompt repayment.

But the second priority for salary deductions raises eyebrows. The DepEd order gives this advantage to non-stock savings and loan associations. This creates problems for the teachers. In the main, these associations charge higher than other possible choices for loans. Then, too, it compels teachers to seek membership in these associations since that is a precondition for borrowing.

The savings and loan associations were given higher priority in the automatic payroll deductions system that the government financial institutions (DBP and LBP), prudential funds, cooperatives and thrift and rural banks who generally have lower financing costs. It is as if the DepEd is canalizing teacher borrowing toward the savings and loan associations.

In the new system of priority in salary deductions, the DepEd order effectively disenfranchises the other competing lenders by giving the membership-based savings and loan associations higher priority in repayment. There is something fishy here.

The savings and loan associations are not the best managed financing mechanisms. We see from the troubled loan associations serving the uniformed personnel the danger of herding teacher borrowing toward these mechanisms.

By mandating this order of priorities for repayment, the DepEd quashes the healthy competition among a wide array of financial service providers. There is now less incentive to streamline costs and offer lower charges to attract borrowers.

The ultimate losers here are the teacher-borrowers. They now labor with constricted choices and, very likely, higher financing charges.

The ultimate winners are the savings and loan associations that seem to have such political influence over DepEd policymaking they enjoy repayment priority over the government financial institutions. They may now leverage that priority against financial efficiency.

By altering the previous first-in, first-served system for the automatic salary deduction system, the DepEd seems to assume that the teachers are incapable of making the right choices in picking financial service providers. That is demeaning.

Over the years, we know that our teachers have used their financing options wisely when they borrow to cover emergencies, put their children through school or make necessary repairs for their homes. This is the reason there has been a large variety of institutions competing for the business of lending to public school teachers.

Now the DepEd has arbitrarily decided the teachers do not deserve to a wide range of choices. Once again, an institution of the state stymies the market.

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