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Opinion

DepEd secretary’s voice

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas - The Philippine Star

Perfidious charges of graft and corruption and a demand for her removal have been hurled against DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones by unknown individuals. In fairness – as the charges have been published in broadsheets and presumably tabloids – I requested her to answer the charges and decided to print her response in full. I personally know Secretary Briones and admire her for her competence, honesty and integrity – qualities she displayed in all her academic, professional and government positions.

When a lie becomes the truth

By Prof. Emeritus Leonor Magtolis Briones, Secretary of Education

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

– Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda for the Third Reich under Adolf Hitler

Among the various departments of the government, the Department of Education has often been the object of brickbats, curses and lurid criticism. These criticisms have been building up during the past four years, in the wake of the firm decision of the DepEd to close schools which do not conform to minimum standards for the grant of permits and school recognition, especially in curriculum content, qualification of teachers and school administrators, and compliance with required physical facilities.

The onset of COVID-19 has increased the level of noise directed at DepEd and its leadership. With the resounding defeat of the campaign for “academic freeze” and the decision of the President to open classes last Oct. 5, resentment and anger at the Department and its leadership have escalated dramatically.

The loud screams and the raucous curses did not completely work. After all, there is a limit to the cuss words which can be heaped on the head of an 80-year-old woman. This time, more and more lies are being manufactured and spread not only on social media, but also in mainstream media as well. Let me answer a few of them:

• On the modules with malicious double entendre

Last Sept. 24, a netizen posted a learning module with malicious double entendre or sexual undertones. The module became a source of laughter and scorn. DepEd was subjected to derisive remarks and insults. During the Senate hearing on the Department budget, two senators asked the Secretary of Education to explain the matter.

Within two hours, DepEd was able to track down the offending module to a private sectarian school in the province. Our regional director personally conducted an investigation. School authorities also conducted their own inquiry.

The teacher, also the writer of the module, has been suspended, pending further investigation. In the meantime, DepEd has referred the matter to the Department of Justice. At the same time, a report was submitted to the President.

• On the photo of teachers clambering up the rooftop of a school to get a signal

A photo which was purportedly taken in Batangas on Oct. 5 went viral after it showed teachers lined up like a chorus line while trying to get an internet signal.

My undersecretary personally went to Batangas and visited the concerned school. He discovered that the incident did not actually take place on Oct. 5 which was the opening of the school year. It took place in September when one of the routers of the school broke down during a seminar and was repaired later.

The pitiful lie backfired because netizens noticed that the photo was deliberately posed. The expected sympathy did not materialize. The plotters were mocked and derided. Nonetheless, DepEd was harmed once more by this obvious lie.

Again, the matter was reported to the President.

• The demand for the resignation of the Secretary of Education

A correspondent of a leading newspaper filed a report, stating that a “near rebellion” of public school teachers was brewing in Pangasinan. Three district supervisors were quoted as demanding the dismissal of the Secretary of Education.

Again, DepEd conducted an investigation, the results of which will be submitted to the President. No such interview of “thousands” of teachers took place. The famous three district supervisors were never named and identified. There are 66 district supervisors in Pangasinan and more than 2,700 supervisors in the entire country.

This is the kind of illogical thinking that we seek to correct in our schools.

• The ghastly errors in modules

If there are errors in modules prepared by the Department of Education, we admit them. More than 850,000 modules were prepared by DepEd. However, we cannot identify one which caused a celebrity to shriek, “Que horror!” These were not produced by DepEd.

Is there an unseen hand or hands in the attacks against DepEd and its leadership?

What is truth?

When Pontius Pilate was interrogating Jesus Christ, he asked, “What is truth?” Is truth the spread of fake news, the production of false materials, the repetition of lies and the spitting out of curses and calling an 80-year-old a whore?

All of us are demanding quality education. Quality education is searching for the truth. Before we give way to raucous laughter, before we post to our zillions of friends and gleefully spread what we suspect in our heart of hearts are lies, let us not forget the admonition: “Seek ye the truth and the truth will make you free.” Are you free?

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Email: [email protected]

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