MANILA (UPDATE) — Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte denied Tuesday that the Department of Education was "rebranding" the martial law period following reports that the military rule under former president Ferdinand Marcos Sr. was being reintroduced as "Period of the New Society" in some schools.
"Bilang Education secretary, wala po sa aking mandato ang pagsira sa integridad ng ating kasaysayan," Duterte said in a statement.
(As the Education secretary, it is not part of my mandate to ruin the integrity of our history.)
"At ang Department of Education — na kasalukuyang abala sa mga programang naglalayong maiangat ang kalidad ng basic education sa Pilipinas — ay walang panahon para sa historical revisionism," she added.
(And the Department of Education — which is currently preoccupied with programs that aim to improve the quality of basic education in the Philippines — does not have time for historical revisionism.)
Duterte was reacting to a report about a senior high school student from Marinduque, who bared on social media that her class was taught to refer to the brutal martial law era as the "Period of the New Society."
In a "TV Patrol" report, student Maria Elena Malvar showed the DepEd module, which referred to the martial law years of 1972 to 1980 as the "Period of the New Society."
Malvar said she felt the module was a form of "whitewashing" that taught students a "distorted" version of history.
But Duterte said the terms "New Society/Bagong Lipunan" and "Martial Law" are both "historical facts."
She said both terms were used "within their proper context" in DepEd textbooks.
"It is a historical fact that New Society refers to the program launched by Former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. during his administration. And it is another historical fact that Martial Law refers to the 14-year rule of the former President," said Duterte.
She also slammed "anti-Marcos groups" in her statement for insisting that there was an ongoing distortion of history.
Reacting to Duterte's statement, Malvar said her issue was not just about the terms used in the module but how martial law was explained to them in class.
"They did not highlight the fact that there were many atrocities during that regime, during that time especially by the government," she told ABS-CBN News.
"Bakit hindi masyado na-highlight iyong martial law and doon sa area na iyon sa module na iyon, wala halos nasabi about [media] censorship, sa pagpatay sa mga activist?" she added.
(Why did they not highlight martial law that much, and why did the module not say much about media censorship or the killing of activists during the period?)
Malvar called on the DepEd to review and correct the information in the module instead of defending it.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), in a statement, also urged the DepEd to correct the module's content.
For ACT Chairperson Vladimer Quetua, Duterte's statement that "New Society/Bagong Lipunan" and "Martial Law" were both correctly used in the learning material "only makes the agency's position on the matter ambiguous."
"May problema talaga ang module, kahit sa usapin pa lang ng consistency sa paggamit ng mga termino," he said.
(There's really a problem with the module, if we're talking about the consistency in the use of terms.)
"In the spirit of truth-telling, as is the mission of education, we should call the Martial Law period Martial Law and not by any other name," he added.
DepEd Spokesperson Michael Poa earlier denied that the agency was rebranding martial law as "Bagong Lipunan" in the basic education curriculum, contrary to claims made on social media.