Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Scolded by the President

President Arroyo scolded yesterday Department of Education Secretary Fe Hidalgo for an error in her classroom shortage report using a ratio of 45 students to 1 classroom instead of what 100:1. That ratio showed great discrepancy indeed. But as an ordinary news reader and parent, who wants to be happy with the fact that a child is studying in a class with a ratio of 100:1? Is this a sign as to how we are degrading our education standards?

If the 45:1 is our end goal, then we should stick to that in measuring our progress. Instead, to make it appear positive, the measurement basis is changed when it is making the situation worst and extremely pathetic.

I was scolded by PGMA once and told myself not to ever give her the chance to do that again. That was during an ITECC meeting in 2002 where she assumed her role as chairman of the now defunct Information Technology Electronic Commerce Council (ITECC). Her presidential advisers crafted an executive order to make her the body’s chairman then. I was presenting a status report from the legal cluster and cited that some of work-to-do are going through due process to some government agencies. Surprisingly, I got asked why is it taking that long when those agencies can do it a day or two? I was most tempted to answer that she, being President, can of course command people to work that fast. But as private sector volunteers helping out, one must wait and fit in within the current workload of the government personnel involved. At that time, DTI Secretary, now Senator Roxas, redirected the focus of PGMA to other cluster heads in that meeting.

The question was valid, no doubt. How it was delivered, the follow-up remarks, was most astonishing and even distasteful. It felt like being power-tripped. After the meeting, I shook my head and thought that the President must have felt that we are desperate to see her at 7 am in the morning just to have that meeting. I made up my mind at that time that I am facing a know-all type of a leader and better give way to others who are adaptable.

My experience in meeting PGMA was the opposite when faced with President Estrada. It was during the signing of Republic Act 8792 or the Philippines E-Commerce Law in the year 2000. I was introduced by Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr. and former Congressman Leandro Verceles Jr. prior to the law’s signing. He congratulated me and ask several of us to pose for a picture. After the picture taking and handshakes, he just tapped my shoulder and said, “Tama yang ginagawa niyo. Pag may mga importante pang batas na kailangan ninyo, i-lobby niyo lang. Ituloy niyo lang yan.” Of course, if I’ve met PGMA in a law signing where I’m a principal lobbyist, perhaps she would have told me the same.

I remember sharing the experience and my complaints on what is happening to ITECC to a Senator at that time, he advised me that the President is facing a lot of pressuring tasks and the new people at ITECC have the best intentions and needed time to prove themselves. I agreed and yielded.

Of course, how ITECC was handled and ended, I believe, was the reason why the implementation of the E-Commerce Law got badly derailed.

Before the year end of 2004, I got asked by another Senator to serve and monitor how the E-Commerce Law is being implemented. The current situation makes you frown and hardly smile.