FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

Filipino children have not been receiving the best educational preparation to begin with. Comparative studies bear that out. Our students rank low compared to their peers abroad in core areas such as mathematics and science.

The pandemic made things worse. Although the DepEd struggled valiantly to keep the educational process going through “blended learning” during the public health emergency, it is widely conceded that the process is inferior to face-to-face classroom work.

SWS reports, from a survey of households done November last year, find that only 58 percent of enrolled Filipinos aged 5 to 20 used devices for distance learning. These devices were either owned (27 percent), bought at an average costs of P8,000 per student (27 percent), received (9 percent), borrowed (10 percent) or rented (0.3 percent).

Of those who bought or rented their devices, 79 percent acquired a smartphone, 13 percent a desktop or laptop, 5 percent a television set and 3 percent a tablet. The report has no numbers on internet access.

Among those currently enrolled, 80 percent participated exclusively in modular distance learning, 1 percent in in-person classes, 0.1 percent exclusively in television or radio instruction and 4 percent in “blended learning.”

Over the 12 months since that survey was done, the numbers might have improved a bit. But the glaring reality remains: the pandemic and the closure of schools this entailed further widened the digital divide between wealthier and poorer students. We are in danger of losing a generation of students should schools remain closed.

There are several proposals to help alleviate the situation. Foremost, of course, is to reopen our schools as soon as possible. Another is to supply our students with the gadgets they need to continue their education remotely.

Rep. Loren Legarda filed House Bill 10405 or the proposed “One Tablet, One Student Act” to supply tablets to all students of public schools and state colleges and universities. Those who already have their own learning gadgets will be given educational assistance to cover the cost of connectivity.

“While the proposed allocation is staggering,” Legarda writes the House leadership, “making sure that our students each have access to resources that would help them cope with changes in our educational system is needed for us to ensure that, despite the restrictions in the traditional modalities of classes, our students will still receive the kind of quality education that they deserve.”

Staggering, indeed. With 27 million elementary and high school students and 1.6 million enrolled in SUCs and local colleges and universities, it is estimated the program will require an additional funding of P154 billion for next year alone.

The objective might be noble, but the program might not be affordable. We do not have the money to buy the gadgets even if they were available. Then, we might not have the bandwidth to support simultaneous use of all those gadgets.


This was like a bad dream or something conjured by the masters of the literature of the absurd.

Eduardo Barretto succumbed to cancer January last year. Before that, he managed the company Panapino Holdings Inc. founded by his father Jorge Sr. His brother, Jorge Jr., lived in Canada and managed the family’s businesses there.

Almost as a matter of course, Terrence Barretto, son of Eduardo, took over management of the company after his father passed on. That was until two former employees of the company secured a court injunction banning his entry into company premises. His mother, his brother and himself, according to the court order, own nothing in the company.

When founder Jorge Sr. passed away in 2012, his estate including a 60 percent share in Panapino was never properly settled. The court order effectively disinheriting Terrence and his mother was issued on the basis of a notarized document that Eduardo was supposed to have signed even while he was confined at the ICU. On the basis of this document, all of Jorge Sr.’s estate was awarded to Jorge Jr. who now supposedly owned 92.5 percent of the corporation. Something is amiss here.

The disinherited Terrence filed suit against the Makati trial judge, the chief city prosecutor and his own uncle to correct an injustice. The most important piece of evidence he had in his favor was a categorical denial by lawyer Joshua Lapuz that he notarized the documents used to disinherit Terrence and his side of the family.

Lapuz adamantly declared he had not seen any of the persons supposedly involved in the notarial process in his office. The documents he supposedly notarized were not recorded in his books. Neither were they registered at the office of the clerk of court in Makati.

In short, the essential documents used in this extrajudicial settlement were faked. Another judge ruled falsification did happen. But how could the chief prosecutor and the trial judge have overlooked this? Their haste in disinheriting Terrence and his side of the family could have resulted in extreme injustice.

Terrence wants to get to the bottom of this. He initiated administrative proceedings against Makati City chief prosecutor Dindo Venturanza alleging violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act. He likewise filed administrative charges against Taguig Regional Trial Court judge Lorelei Datahan for what he considers improper, anomalous and irregular conduct in the handling of this case.

Clearly, Terrence thinks there was more than just carelessness involved in what happened. He wants to get to the bottom of this.

A David courageously goes after Goliaths in the court system. So many who have been victimized by the miscarriage of justice in the system supposed to uphold fairness should be watching the progress of these complaints filed.

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