quaint little rutted bucket

Friday, April 09, 2004

Here's my final paper for ENGLONE, complete with a few revisions and changes for mostly aesthetic purposes. :) (Gee, I never thought I still make embarassing, little slip-ups like those.)

The Promise of Education and Progress

2004 marks another potentially tumultuous year as our country once again goes to the polls for another national election. At stake is the stewardship of the nation’s highest executive government office, and along with it, the next six years.

This election couldn’t come at a more crucial time: our country is reeling from the bitter taste of a lagging economy, a government that is still marked by unbridled graft and corruption (despite the efforts to combat it), and a populace that is on the brink of a class war: where a good chunk of the population is unknowingly pitted against the so-called “elitist” and rich classes. In these instances, having an election is perhaps the last thing that comes into mind in resolving the crises we have gotten ourselves mired in.

But looking at it in a positive light, an election could very well be the thing we have been hoping for to heal a society that has been deeply fractured by political bickering and to bring about upbeat, proactive reforms to the government, an economic upheaval, even. By electing leaders that at least conform to the ideals we as a society have set, we can at least hope for changes that are finally, for the better.

It is important then that we choose our leaders in the most prudent, responsible, principled manner possible, for it is in our decision that the fate of our country for the next six years rests. We should not only take the candidates at face value, but rather, weigh their capacity and potential to govern and lead on a criteria that not only focuses on what is skin-deep but on other equally-critical aspects as well, such as platform, personality, background, and upbringing. Taking these into consideration, one by one, the roster of candidates that at least conforms to this set of qualifications lessens. In the end, we are pretty much left with a single guy: Mr. Raul Roco.

In these trying times, a man of conviction is just what the doctor had prescribed. Raul Roco’s “character of conviction”, made evident in his tenure as the Secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd) and as a legislator in both the Congress and the Senate, perfectly fits the bill of a leader that has what it takes to initiate reforms that will ultimately lead to progress and positive change.

It can be noted that when Roco took the office of the Secretary of the Department of Education, it was ranked as the fourth-most corrupt government agency in a survey by the Asia Foundation and the Social Weather Stations. He set out to begin reforms, primarily aimed at reducing or even eliminating graft and corruption, by initiating an effort to make the agency more transparent. As a result of this, the DepEd was able to procure significantly more textbooks for use by the public education system—by simply buying them at a much lower price, virtually cutting out any opportunities for a corrupt arrangement to take place, as a result of the transparency policies he had set in place. The DepEd was also able to provide free education to more children, granting teachers’ better remuneration by removing unnecessary “service charges”, and the introduction of the long-stalled basic education curriculum reform, which aims to improve children’s skills in reading, communication arts, sciences, arithmetic, and in patriotism/national history as well, in the form of the Makabayan subjects.

While his reforms alienated some officials and rank-and-file employees of the DepEd, more people benefited from his efforts than those who were disaffected. Roco put his name on the line for what truly matters—the drive to continue and to pursue what is morally-upright and correct, knowing that it will be to the benefit of many, especially to children that will be forbearers of the future of this once-proud nation.

A presidency under Raul Roco will also benefit from his colorful educational background. As a bright learner, Roco finished his studies in advance compared to other students of his age. He soon went to Manila to pursue higher education, finishing a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, as magna cum laude, at San Beda College. He also finished his law studies at the same college. His desire to learn was almost never satiated: Roco then proceeded to the United States to take Master of Comparative Law as a University Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. This strong affinity for learning, combined with his conviction, speaks volumes on how valuable education is to him, potentially spelling out how he will put education as a priority, if he is elected President.

As a legislator, a few of Raul Roco’s most notable bills are the central banking system reform law, Intellectual Property Code and the Securities Regulation Code. He also advocates the increasing role of women in Filipino society, by spearheading bills that aims to further protect their welfare. In the past, he was also a part of Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino’s legal staff, where he helped draft the Study Now, Pay Later Law.

While it cannot be denied that Roco certainly had missteps in his career as a politician, his efforts to bring positive change that benefits a lot of Filipinos more than makes up for the mistakes he had done. Some of his critics deride him for his inaction in Marcos’ Martial Law days, but in his defense, he admits that he made some mistakes in the past, that he was honestly remorseful about his slip-ups and says that now he is wiser, older, he hopes to makes up for those by serving his countrymen with all passion and dedication.

His experience in an executive government agency also taught him the ills of Philippine bureaucracy. If ever he is elected President, he would start off by reorganizing the Cabinet and meeting them in smaller, ‘cluster’ meetings. Through this and other similar changes, he aims to maximize productivity and at the same time, push for the reforms that he is aiming for.

Raul Roco’s platform of governance, not surprisingly, puts education into perspective. This is important, as most of the progressive, democratic, industrialized nations around the world need a well-educated workforce for it to be able to succeed and push through with plans to uplift and improve their respective economies. Two of the most popular success stories of education in action happened right here in Asia: Korea and Japan.

Both countries suffered heavily after World War II. Korea was occupied by the Japanese for a good part of that war, and was followed by the Communist revolt several years after. On the other hand, Japan suffered heavily after the war, having lost its war to the Allies, primarily to the United States. Both nations were poor and struggling, and only a glimmer of patriotism saved them from totally losing hope. Through education, foreign help and sincere, genuine efforts to help their own respective nations, both Japan and South Korea helped themselves out of the quagmire that the wars had brought, and both now stands today among Asia’s most progressive, industrialized nations.

We could follow the same success story. It might not have the same magnitude as the two East Asian success stories, but it will surely make a difference. While an investment in education will not pay off immediately, by having our long-term priorities and goals mapped out for us by having education as a priority, we can at least be sure of some semblance of progress in the future, provided that nothing negative in nature happens within a decade or two’s time.

But we should not neglect the present. Raul Roco’s platform also gives focus on the economy, and measures on how it can be improved. Of particular note in his platform is his desire to ask for debt restructuring, push for antitrust (anticompetitive corporate behavior prevention) laws, improvement of tax collection and a policy of putting sustainable development as a priority. All of these, if Roco is elected and if pushed through, could have profound positive effects on the economy of our country.

A platform of governance, in the hands of a skilled and principled leader such as Raul Roco, can very well be key to the revival the Philippines is looking for. Raul Roco’s education and background gives him a well-stocked trove of experiences that he could certainly draw from, and his education more than lends credibility to his desire to be of service to the people of the Philippines. His track record more than speaks for himself. His words, resounding of conviction, reveal an image of a leader that that is more akin with the notable leaders of other nations. By having a President such as Raul Roco, we could be more or less certain of a government that puts service first, through the reformist policies and efforts he is spearheading. Raul Roco may very well be the leader that will lead our country to its first revival in the twenty-first century.


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