MANILA — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Thursday said it would be better if an education expert headed the Department of Education (Deped), following reports that presumptive vice president Sara Duterte-Carpio agreed to lead the agency.
“I don’t know what the incoming, the presumptive vice president’s track record is in education. I would have guessed other education experts to helm that important department,” Hontiveros said on ANC’s “Rundown.”
She noted the DepEd receives the biggest cut of the national budget yearly and its mandate is connected with combatting historical revisionism.
The new agency chief will also be in charge of responding to educational issues caused by the pandemic, Hontiveros said.
“Napakahalaga sana… na ang hahawak ng education department—ang magpapatupad nung kaka-sponsor lang namin sa Senado na Education Commission II, ang tutugon sa iba’t ibang problemang sa ating namuong education crisis pre-pandemic up to during the pandemic until now—ay isang education expert,” she said.
(It would've been important that the education secretary— the one who will implement our recently-sponsored Education Commission II, the one who will respond to various problems in our looming education crisis from pre-pandemic until now—is an education expert.)
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) meanwhile said it would have preferred if the new DepEd secretary was an educator who understood the struggles of teachers.
"Hearing that [a] non-education sector person is going to head the agency for the next 6 years, medyo kinakabahan kami dito ‘no (we feel a bit nervous)," said ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio.
He said he had yet to hear Duterte-Carpio's plans for the education sector, other than the reinstatement of the mandatory military service for all Filipinos after they turn 18 years old.
"I think pinaka-least yan sa pinag-uusapan dapat eh," Basilio said in a separate ANC interview.
(That should be the least discussed.)
“Ang pinag-uusapan natin, paano nga ba matutugunanan yung problema natin ng education crisis natin, 'yung mga bata na hindi marunong magbasa, magsulat, 'yung facilities natin na sira-sira, yung classroom mo na 'yung mga kisame babagsak na, 'yung electric fan na ang bumibili ay mga teacher, 'yung mga teachers natin na nagre-resign at nagtatrabaho abroad,” he added.
(We should talk about the education crisis, the kids who do not know how to read or write, our damaged facilities, the classroom with ceilings that are about to fall down, the electric fans that teachers buy, the teachers who resign and work abroad instead.)
MARCOS CAMP: DUTERTE QUALIFIED
Duterte-Carpio initially eyed leading the defense department.
She said she and her running-mate, presumptive president Ferdinand Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Wednesday "once again talked about how I could help the country."
"It was decided that I would work on producing skilled learners with the mindset to realize their full potential as individuals," Duterte-Carpio said.
"Our country needs a future generation of patriotic Filipinos that advocate peace and discipline in their respective communities."
Marcos meanwhile said Duterte-Carpio "is a mother and she wants to make sure that her children are well-trained and well-educated."
"That's the best motivation that we can hope for," he added.
Duterte-Carpio will be overseeing the agency responsible for the K-12 curriculum taught to over 27 million students. This includes how it discusses the history of her running mate's father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., as well as the administration of her own father, President Rodrigo Duterte.
The DepEd is also trying to improve education quality following the Philippines' poor standing in international learning assessments, and is in the process of gradually reopening schools for in-person classes, which were banned in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Is she (Duterte-Carpio) qualified? Definitely. She’s a lawyer," said Marcos Jr's spokesman Vic Rodriguez. "She has the confidence of the 31 million Filipinos who voted her into office. She enjoys the trust and confidence of President-elect Bongbong. Let’s give her a chance so that she can run ably the Department of Education."