Back to Kindergarten

Allow me to share Robert Fulghum’s classic All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindargarten to our embattled MitsuBishops who are now embroiled in the PCSO SUV controversy, and to Davao City mayor Inday Sara Duterte, for assaulting a court official.

There really are valuable lessons from our younger years that must remain in our consciousness. These are simple rules that molded our being when we were impressionably young. Whatever happens after that, well, your guess is as good as mine. It could be the long years spent in the seminary or the voluminous law books that one has to read to pass the bar exams. It is a regrettable fact that most of these indiscretions are done by people who we otherwise refer to us learned and illustrious.

So here it is:

by Robert Fulghum

Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.

These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

I hope the bishops allow the rural poor a free ride once in a while.

Play fair.

Do not demand for a special treatment- mayor or bishops if you break the law, face the consequence.

Don’t hit people.

Need I say more, Sara?

Put things back where you found them.

Do we expect the bishops to return their precious SUVs to the government?

Clean up your own mess.

Not Daddy. Not your brother. Definitely not the Pope.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

PCSO money is for the poor indigents who are medically ill. Not for you and your extravagant lifestyle.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

I am sorry. At least La Gloria said it.

I’ll stop here as most of the succeeding lessons are no longer relevant to the current issue. But if you wish to see more of it, click on this link.

No amount of righteousness can undo what has been done – or made public. Perhaps the best thing to do is to remember the lessons we learned from kindergarten- and never forget any of them, again.



As I write this, our representatives in Congress are voting for the articles of impeachment versus Ombudsman Merciditas Gutierrez.  On TV, I see former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in red dress holding her mobile phone up to her ear as if calling for Garci while waiting for her turn to cast her vote.

I am optimistic that the Ombudsman will be impeached by the 15th Congress, and hopeful that the impeachment of the Ombudsman will usher a renaissance in our public administration and poltical systems.  We need the impeachment in order to repair the dismal condition of our nation’s polity, to bring back decency in government, to reclaim our people’s trust in our democratic project, to regain the lost morale of the honest and hardworking people in the government, and of course, to give Merci the opportunity to defend herself and for the Filipino people to decide on whether the Ombudsman had been remissed in her sworn duty of protecting the Filipino people. 

More importantly, impeaching the Ombudsman raises the bar of public service to new heights.  In light of our recent political history, where Congress seemed to be blocking all roads towards transparency and accountability and the executive department acted with impunity in covering up the alleged sins it had and have been commiting, impeaching the Ombudsman is a breath of fresh air to say the least.

Now it can be told.  The Ombudsman have just been impeached by the 15th Congress with an overwhelming 210 votes.  Forty seven representatives, including the 3 Macapagal- Arroyos voted against the impeachment. 

The supermoon might have been behind all these.  Technically known as the Vernal Equinox, it marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and fall in the southern hemisphere.  It signals the changing of seasons. It also symbolizes balance, as the word equinox means “equal night” because the sun shines directly on the equator, and the length of day and night are nearly equal in all parts of the world.  

As I wish for the dating gawi (old ways) to go away with the new season of daang matuwid (righteous path), I hope just the same that the Ombudsman be given a fair and balanced trial. 

May the Congressmen acting as prosecutors prove us right – that Merci has indeed violated her constitutional duties.

Post script:  My representative, Hon. Bai Sandra Sema voted in favor of impeacing the Ombudsman.  How did your congressman vote?  Click here to know.

K-12 is not OK

DepEd Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro of the De La Salle chain of universities summed it up short and simple:  our Asian neighbors and the rest of the world have instituted a 12-year basic education to make their young population globally competitive.  Poor Philippines should do the same.

I spent a total of 11 years to complete my kindergarten, primary and secondary education.  Even without the law that mandates a 12-year education cycle, most Filipinos of my age took preparatory schools (nursery and kindergarten) prior to entering the formal education system.  In a sense, most of the younger urban generation today have completed more than the mandated 10-year cycle.  So what gives?  Can the DepEd just formally recognize preparatory school instead of adding a 7th grade and a 5th year?

Modesty aside, I don’t feel inadequate having gone through the 10-year education cycle.  If competitiveness is  DepEd’s primary objective for adding years in our basic education cycle, then they should be clear:  competitiveness in what?  The rest of the world have been enjoying our low pay, high quality workforce.  Many overqualified Filipinos have been exported everywhere to perform jobs that are way under their competencies.  So why reinvent the wheel? 

My take is that Filipinos are in fact overschooled, but hardly educated.  We spend so much time memorizing facts and figures.  We focus on perfecting exams, getting high scores, and finishing school with honors…or at least on time.  Our education system creates a schooled population but not an educated one.  Schools are used as factories to produce unthinking automatons, not humans.  Yes, even Catholic schools that espouses total human development cannot accept critical thinking, freedom of expression and self-paced learning as virtues of their brand of education.  It is not a surprise then to find people who have PhDs attached to their names but are incapable of creating original thought, or forming an intelligent opinion moreso express a divergent view.  They are not bookish; they are boxed. 

Another reason for expanding the basic education cycle, DedEd says is for those who can’t afford a college education become easily employable.  But in an economy with high unemployment and underemployment rates, where even college graduates cannot find a decent work that is commensurate to their college diplomas, do we expect employers to prefer an undergraduate over a degree holder?  I don’t think so.

The 12-year basic education cycle may be the answer to a wrong problem and for a different time.  Now is not the time to prolong the agony of poor parents to send their children to school.  Twelve years in school does not guarantee better education.  It might just mean longer years spent by hungry students in crowded classrooms with overworked, poorly trained and underpaid teachers using error-ridden textbooks and outdated curricula.

Panata sa Pagbabago

Pilipino ako


Na tutulong sa ating pamunuan

Sa pagtataguyod ng marangal na pamamahala

Sa pagpapalakas ng isang lipunang makatarungan

At sa pagpapatingkad ng ating demokrasya

Upang guminhawa ang ating demokrasya

Upang guminhawa ang pinakamamahal nating bayang Pilipinas.

Gagampanan ko

Ang lahat ng katungkulan

Ng isang mabuting mamamayan

Na kasing-tindi ng paghamon ko sa ating mga pinuno

Na sumunod sa landas na matuwid.

Makikipag-kapit-bisig ako sa aking kapwa Pilipino

Sama-sama nating babaguhin

Ang takbo ng kasaysayan upang umiral ang kagandahang-loob.

Ipinangangako ko ito sa ngalan ng aking mga ninuno at mga apo

Patnubayan nawa ng Poong Maykapal ang sambayanan.


Composed by Sonny Coloma and Marian Pastor Roces

Doing Nothing Can Save the Day

Five days to go before the term of our elected officials comes to an end.  No other place in the Philippines is under a heart-stopping suspense drama than South Cotabato.  No other elected official in today’s government, GMA included, is as anxious to end her term as Governor Daisy P. Avance-Fuentes.

South Cotabato has turned into a real life Pandora of the James Cameron film Avatar.  Only that, in this local version, the Na’vi are not in conflict with RDA Corporation.  As a matter of fact, the B’laans and other IPs in South Cotabato are solidly behind the mining project of Sagittarius Mines Inc.

So who are the bida in this local teleserye?

At the centerstage of course is the dear governor, whose hands hold the power of the pen which can make or break the June 9 passage into ordinance of the South Cotabato Environment Code by the provincial legislators.  Voting 9-1-2 (yes-no-abstain in that order), the provincial board members now awaits the governor’s signature to make the Environment Code a legitimate piece of legislation.

The governor of course can veto the Code, and send it back to SP for their ratification.  Once vetoed by the governor, the law directs the SP to ratify the ordinance by a majority vote, in effect overturning the veto power of the governor.  Such is the beauty of our representative democracy!

Whatever the governor chooses to do, she will surely be embroiled in a bigger and certainly, noisier controversy.  If she enacts the Code into law, she will get the ire of the national government officials and agencies for allowing the local legislators to trample upon an otherwise clear delineation of powers between and among the branches/ instrumentalities of governmnent.  

The most contested part of the Code is Section 22 where open pit mining method is banned in the province contrary to several national laws, chief of which is the Mining Act of 1995.   

Of course, big business and foreign governments will also be terribly disappointed.  The government has spent several million of Filipino taxpayer’s money to attract investors to do business in the Philippines, only to be messed up with such an inter-government fiasco.

Local residents and the Blaans, who have started started to experience commercial activities in their otherwise sleepy town will also be enraged for taking away from them a host of potential and the opportunity to improve their lot.

If however the governor chooses to veto the Code, she will get the wrath of a Catholic church scorned.  By Catholic church, this is mostly the  powerful clergy who relishes to display their power to command the students and teachers of their expensive schools to cut classes and mount a rally…else, get detained after class, get low grades or simply and the most convenient threat:  get burned in hell.

A friendly advice to the governor:  DO NOTHING.

Doing nothing is also a decision, and a less troublesome one.  We must remember that public policy is government’s action or inaction- whatever governments choose to do or not do (Read Thomas Dye, 1984).   In this context, doing nothing is bliss.

Lessons from the Automated Elections

Now it can be said, that on the 10th day of May 2010, the Philippines has attempted its first nationwide conduct of automated elections…er, automated counting of ballots.

For it was really the counting of votes that was computerized.  The rest was laboriously and painfully manual.  Like most people, it took me 5 hours to line up under the scorching midday summer heat before I got hold of the ballot and the magic smartmatic pen.  The queue was a long S-curve going on all directions and intersecting at various points, with people lining up for Clustered Precincts 312, 301 and 314.  Finally when PCOS sent me his Congratulations! and the election inspector marked me with the indelible ink,  I didnt notice how I got my neck and arms burnt by the unforgiving sun. 

As to the lessons, here are they:

Plan. Do. Evaluate.  The plan includes management of queues, placing directional signs in strategic locations, making voter- citizens comfortable while waiting- better if waiting is reduced to a minimum, train volunteers to be effective, courteous and knowledgeable service representatives.  This is not asking too much from the Comelec.  This is raising the bar of government service.  Citizens, on a special day such as the elections, must be treated well by the state, like what many local government units now do in their Tax Divisions.  Nobody deserves the shabby treatment millions of us, including President- elect Aquino experienced last Monday.  Automation should introduce a new culture of government service:  fast, reliable, convenient.  We should not allow that to be negated by the traditionally inefficient lines.  On that note, we should move out from decrepit classrooms to a more people-friendly venues like the mall theatres or the now popular event clamshells or tents- airconditioned, secured, comfortable! (Read Reinventing Government by Osborne and Gaebler, 1993).

Rule of the morons.  Much of the discomforts during the election were caused by ill-prepared bureaucrats who may not be competent at all to oversee such a big event.  Who knows how many voters got disenfranchised by the mere sight of disorganized queues in and outside of the polling precints.  I don’t want to discriminate but this is what we get for tolerating gardeners and manicurists to run our government.  Ayn Rand has a word for this:  the secondhanders. 

The man who cheats and lies, but preserves a respectable front. He knows himself to be dishonest, but others think he’s honest and he derives his self-respect from that, second-hand. The man who takes credit for an achievement which is not his own. He knows himself to be mediocre, but he’s great in the eyes of others. The frustrated wretch who professes love for the inferior and clings to those less endowed, in order to establish his own superiority by comparison . . . . They’re second-handers . . . .

We see these secondhanders everywhere in the bureaucracy, stepping over our respected and experienced (not to mention competent) career officials, occupying juicy positions, and dispensing authority like kings and queens.  In the end, they achieve nothing but dismal failure.  They are not just qualified.  They know nothing, they can do nothing; thus the imminent failure.

Measuring Success.  Our government has declared the May 10 elections as a successful event.  Both the police and the military concurred,  with a lot more people, despite all the troubles that the voters underwent that day, echoing the same sentiment.  It is frustrating that for most of us, our idea of success has become so bastardized that as long as one survives an ordeal, however atrocious it was, it can be called successful.  Thankfully, foreign observers corrected this misperception by stating firmly that no, your election was neither fair nor honest.     

Vigilance is king.

 And lastly, I’d say we owe it to the doomsayers for pressing the alarm whenever the Comelec overlooks (wittingly or unwittingly) some significant preparations for the automation.  The doomsayers are our heroes, for staying cynical throughout the whole process, never buying in to Comelec’s often moronic excuses.  Without our own collective vigilance, the May 10 elections would never have happened.

I Vote for MDG


Stating today and for the next two days, 16-18 October 2009, people around the world will take action in pushing for the eradication of poverty.

This 3-day global mobilization aims to send a loud and clear message from citizens to leaders of rich and poor countries to take urgent action to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It also aims to once again break the Guinness World Record for having the largest number of people participating in a single event.

The MDGs are a set of eight time-bound, concrete and specific targets aimed at significantly reducing, if not decisively eradicating extreme poverty by 2015. They are embodied in the Millennium Declaration of 2000, which were signed by 189 world leaders from around the globe, including the Philippines.

The eight MDGs are:

Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

Achieve universal primary education.

Promote gender equality and empower women.

Reduce child mortality.

Improve maternal health.

Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Ensure environmental sustainability.

Develop a global partnership for development.

 This year, Stand Up will take place against the backdrop of a deepening financial crisis and a slowing global economy. Much closer to home and only recently, we were devastated by the wrath of Typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng that not only showed to us the unparalled strength of nature but also the lackadaisical and almost criminal (in)action of our government towards poorly planned urban-rural development and unconscionable abuse of our natural ecosystem.

It is a time of great challenge for development in general and the MDGs in particular. Already we are seeing the potentially devastating impact on this on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. We know that the current economic climate threatens to undo and possibly even reverse the very significant gains that have been made towards achieving the MDGs.

With just six years left to the 2015 deadline for the achievement of the Goals, we cannot afford to let this happen. The achievement of the MDGs must remain a priority on the global political and public agenda. Through Stand United, we will convey the urgency of meeting the MDGs and end extreme poverty by 2015.

Watch this 2009 video  on why you should vote for MDG.