MANILA - A heated debate erupted at the House of Representatives on Thursday when a lawmaker asked about the implementation of the mandate to teach martial law atrocities in higher education institutions.
Under the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, it should be part of the basic, secondary and tertiary education curricula, along with the lives and sacrifices of the victims of human rights violations during the martial law era in the country under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
During the lower chamber’s plenary debates on the proposed 2024 budget of the Commission on Higher Education, Kabataan Party List Rep. Raoul Manuel asked CHED whether it provided a common guide to higher education institutions regarding martial law education, and how schools are implementing it.
CHED’s budget sponsor, Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin said martial law education is contained in a memorandum order issued by the Commission and is part of the readings in Philippine history. She, however, said higher education institutions cannot force students to be interested in the topic or to make it an advocacy.
"We want to check kung sapat ba talaga ang ganoong pamamaraaan, para matiyak natin na hindi nabubura sa collective consciousness ng ating mga kababayan, lalu na sa mga kabataan ang mga nangyari sa ating bansa noong panahon ng diktadurang Marcos Sr.,” Manuel asked.
“With the course readings in Philippine History it’s actually incorporated there. And all students in higher education are appraised of the martial law including narrations and accounts of lives and experiences of people. So it is already there,” Garin replied.
"Unfortunately, we cannot control the minds of the people, because the new generation, especially if they are aware of the services and the economic upliftment of their lives, said matter does not seem to gain interest in them. Hindi natin kasi pwedeng ipilit na magkaroon ng interes ang karamihan ng ating mga estudyante na wala nang interes sa usaping ito,” she added.
“Nasa responsibilidad natin sa pamahalaan at mandated din ito ng batas na kung hindi agad nakikita ng ating mga kababayan ang kahalagahan ng ganoong topic, tayo dapat ang magpakahusay sa maayos na pagtuturo nito,” Manuel said.
The Kabataan Party List representative then asked whether CHED monitors its implementation and the number of hours dedicated by higher education institutions in teaching the topic. Garin answered in the affirmative, but noted that students are now more interested in other matters, like improving personal competitiveness.
"Yes, nakikita, namomonitor at iniimplementa. However… with due courtesy, we cannot force the topic on those who do not want it to be part of their lives, because they are more interested in topics that will uplift their personal competitiveness in this globally competitive world,” she said.
“Hindi natin dapat pinagbabangga ang practical skills and learnings na dapat makuha ng ating mga estudyante sa pag-aaral ng kasaysayan, kasi magkarugtong sila. For example, kung hindi nauunawan ng ating mga kabataan na delikado ang leadership na naka-sentro sa iisa o iilang tao, when they enter government, hindi sila magiging conscious, na dapat if they are a government official ayusin din nila. If they are in the private sector, hindi sila mag-take advantage sa ibang tao. Ang history natin crucial siya na bahagi kung paano in the future magiging maayos na citizens ang ating mga kabataan,” Manuel replied.
"Academic freedom is something that we should all respect… The context of ito ba ay delikado, ito ba ay tama, ito ba ay mali is based on the individual academic freedom of each student,” Garin said.
"Hindi nasagot ang ating tanong. It seems like CHED is being too defensive. Nasa batas na dapat tinitiyak ng CHED na naituturo ang topic. At gusto natin malaman kung paano ba talaga ito na-i-implement sa ating mga paaralan... It is relevant, and it really should be taught. Ang tinatasa na lang natin ay ‘yung implementation,” Manuel asserted.
He reiterated his request for a written report from CHED on the number of higher education institutions that are compliant with the mandate to teach martial law atrocities, and how much time HEIs allocate for it. Garin said all students taking the subject Readings in Philippine History receive martial law education, but CHED officials and personnel cannot be “timekeepers” to determine the number of hours dedicated on the topic.
"We cannot dictate on our people to follow the narrative. It is there, it is being taught, it is being said. If they are interested or not, the challenge remains there. Hindi tayo pwedeng maging diktador na pipilitin natin silang magbigay ng laan ng tiyempo sa topic ng Philippine history in relation to martial law if they so refuse,” Garin said.
"Ang pagtuturo, hindi naman po ‘yan pagdidikta. Ang mga kabataan, marunong mag-isip. Hindi po kami kailangan diktahan. Ang kailangan namin maayos na pagtuturo,” Manuel replied.
The House of Representatives suspended the period of interpellation on the proposed 2024 budget of CHED.