Militarist in the education department

This article is available in PilipinoBisaya

Since the outset, teachers opposed the appointment of Sara Duterte, the illegitimate vice president, as secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd). They said, there is no place in the department for a militarist, a historical illiterate and reality-detached like Duterte. She also does not have the background or skills to lead it.

After almost a year in office, Duterte’s militaristic mindset is evident in her relentless anti-communist rhetoric and attacks against teachers. She used the DepEd as a platform to act as a military spokesperson, after not being appointed to her much coveted Department of National Defense.

She is desperately playacting as the chief of the reactionary army as part of her posturing for the next presidential election. She rejoiced over her appointment as co-vice chairperson in the National Task Force-Elcac last May which recognized her all-out support to the agency’s cause.

Beyond being a red-tagger, Duterte brought to the department the fraudulent victory of Davao City’s “local peace”, achieved through a brutal suppression campaign characterized by massacres, killings, arrests, forced surrenders and subjugation of entire communities to military rule.

While preoccupied with her militaristic goals, Duterte failed to address the education crisis exacerbated by his father Rodrigo Duterte’s misguided policies during the pandemic. She also failed to address the grievances of teachers for decent salaries, proper working conditions, job security and prompt benefits. She bring shame to a department incapable of providing reasonable allowances, like the foul-smelling and inedible rice that teachers received then returned in June.

Lack of personnel, classrooms, books and other long-standing issues in the sector remain as obstacles to quality education. The holding of classes last summer was an utter incompetence due to overcrowded and humid classrooms.

Like her father, Duterte conceals her failures by repeatedly maligning progressive organizations, primarily the teachers’ union.

In March, she resorted to red-tagging as a response to the clamor of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) for the government to employ an additional 30,000 teachers and allocate ₱100 billion annually over the next six years to attain the class-size ratio of 35 students per teacher. She said the proposal was “unrealistic and impossible”, and attacked teachers expressing legitimate grievances.

She used her position to silence the teachers union. In June, she issued a memorandum to collect and submit the names of ACT members to the agency’s central leadership. This goes against teachers’ guaranteed right to privacy, their right to unionize and express their opinion. This is similar to the previous profiling scheme conducted by the Philippine National Police in 2019. The said profiling resulted in police “visiting” the schools and homes of ACT members, and subjecting them to interrogations and surveillance.

Dangerous to children

In June, it was reported that Duterte gave DepEd key positions to retired generals loyal to her family dynasty. She appointed as undersecretary and assistant secretary Ret. Maj Gen. Nolasco Mempin and Ret. Brig. Gen. Noel Baluyan despite their lack of background or skills in the field of education.

Mempin served as the commander of Task Force Davao and 10th ID. He was responsible for the forced surrender of civilians in the Davao region in 2022. Baluyan, on the other hand, served as an officer in Task Force Cebu and as Assistant Division Commander of the 3rd ID. This is the AFP division responsible for many heinous crimes in the island of Negros, where children were among its victims.

Under Duterte, the forced participation of minors in Grades 11 and 12 in NTF-Elcac and AFP lectures and symposia continue. During these activities, soldiers suppress the students’ right to express their opinions and join organizations of their choice.

Militarist in the education department