Concerns mount over Duterte's appointment as DepEd chief

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 13) — Leading vice presidential candidate Sara Duterte is set to head the Department of Education after she is officially proclaimed winner in the May 9 polls, but some raised concerns that this will be the first step to fully wiping out history written in textbooks.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Final Word on Thursday, former Education secretary Edilberto De Jesus said the problems of education are very well-known to the public.

He said Duterte's appointment is "risky," considering education is one of the biggest sectors in the government, with the most complex bureaucracy.

"The problems of education are very well-known to most of the public, and the improvements or lack of improvements are going to be visible," De Jesus said. "There is a large constituency that has already been working on education issues."

Historical revisionism underway?

Duterte's association with running mate and presidential frontrunner Bongbong Marcos also poses a dilemma when it comes to strengthening student education on history, culture, human rights, and most especially issues on Martial Law and possibilities of historical revisionism, he noted.

"Yun nga ang isang problema na hinaharap niya dahil sa kanyang association with Marcos Jr.," he pointed out. "Ano ang kanyang magiging policy tungkol sa problema ng historical revisionism? Ano ang kanyang magiging policy tungkol sa concern over civic education, and the rights and duties of both the citizens and the government officials?"

[Translation: That is one of the problems that she is facing, because of her association with Marcos Jr. What will be her policy against the problem of historical revisionism? What will be her policy about concern over civic education, and the rights and duties of both the citizens and the government officials?]

“It is delusional for these people to expect that the possible ascension to Malacañang of families of thieves and mass murderers will be morally and politically acceptable for those who have been victimized by and who struggled against political repression and plunder throughout the years,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a separate statement.

Palabay added that the appointment might also "bring a tsunami of further fake news and disinformation — if not censorship — on the realities in contemporary Philippine history," involving the administration of the Marcos and Duterte fathers.

Under the Marcos regime, over 11,000 people fell victim to summary execution, torture, and other human rights violations, according to the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act. Amnesty International estimates some 70,000 were imprisoned and 34,000 were tortured. The family has also been accused of amassing billions of dollars in ill-gotten wealth.

Marcos said in the past that it is about time for educational institutions to revise the content of history textbooks, and blamed the opposition for their "political propaganda" which have depicted their family in a bad light.

READ: Marcos pushes for revision of history textbooks: 'You're teaching the children lies'

Education expert needed

In a separate interview, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said that she expected another education expert to helm the agency, especially because it holds the highest budgetary allocation from Congress yearly.

For this year alone, the education sector, including the DepEd, state universities and colleges, and the Commission on Higher Education received the highest budget slice of ₱788 billion -- ₱36.8 billion higher than the 2021 budget.

De Jesus said Duterte will have to address the issues confronting teachers today, including the need for additional training, resources, and a solid system — which were aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulted in the temporary halt of face-to-face instruction.

ACT Teachers Party-list also stressed the need for a leadership that recognizes the learning crisis, underpaid teachers, and the "degeneration of the country's sense of history and grasp of truth."

"Sara Duterte has no recognition of these problems, that also worsened under her father’s rule, and has no track record in addressing these. How then can she resolve these crises?" the party-list said in a statement.

Duterte on Wednesday thanked Marcos for the appointment, emphasizing the need for the country to have a new generation of advocates for peace and discipline. She committed to working on "producing skilled learners with the mindset to realize their full potential as individuals."

READ: Sara Duterte on DepEd post: PH needs new generation of advocates for peace, discipline