What’s all the brouhaha about former President GMA seeking medical help abroad? If you ask me, her illness or whether we have capable doctors to deal with it should not be the issue.
The issue is that her right to travel and individual freedoms are being crushed. Being accused is not being convicted. She does not lose her rights as a citizen on the basis of suspicion or speculation on what she might do if she were to go abroad. This is political persecution.
I trace back that persecution to a long string of attempts, foreign and local, to oust her when she was president. She foiled regime change. She had outsmarted her enemies and reached the finish line. Do you really think that foreign operators and their local subalterns will take that sitting down?
The presidents of this country are decided elsewhere and that practice will not be broken. Neocolonialism may be a tough word for it but the signs are clear: the Philippines is a pawn in the realpolitik of the region therefore leaders who do not have their own mind are preferred.
The bottom line of the alleged cheating in 2004 is Fernando Poe Jr. did not become president of the Philippines. We would have had another actor for president adored by millions of fans but incapable of leading the country.
He was not the choice of more intelligent Filipino voters. But, says my good friends in the movie world — talagang mabait siya. I am sure he was but could he run the country? It is the same story over and over again. Our leaders come from this pool of “good” but incapable candidates.
A small reminder. Not unless the votes are recounted, can we ever know who cheated whom in that election. In the furor that followed the 2004 elections the Supreme Court acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal ruled the results could only be contested by the candidate with direct personal interest. And Fernando Poe Jr. was dead. No recounting could be done. So continued accusations of cheating remain allegations.
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A former Indian lady ambassador told me that she was surprised to find out that Indian Nobel prizewinners started studying in village schools. That was a revelation that I kept in mind. You can google some of these famous Indian provincials who became world famous.
Bengal is the birthplace of India’s only Nobel laureate in literature, Rabindranath Tagore. Others were Subhash Chandra Bose, who was called “Netaji”.
Satyendra Nath Bose, the Bose of the Bose-Einstein theory, was also Bengali. So was Amartya Sen, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998. Mother Teresa, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, had worked in Kolkata. It was here that she saw the horror of people dying from hunger in the streets unattended.
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We should aspire to emulate India’s history of Nobel laureates coming from village schools.
A young man schooled in the province of Sorsogon topped successive engineering board exams. It is a remarkable feat because provincial schools are hardship posts with little laboratory facilities. Who would have imagined that the school could teach students to excel. (I visited Sorsogon a number of times for the Local Autonomy Bicol campaign headed by Dante Jimenez.)
While thousands of students flock to Manila for a chance at good schooling, little is known that provincial schools can be just as good with dedicated teachers and eager students. It is time to recognize schools in the provinces and to help them maintain their standards.
The school is Sorsogon State College (SSC), which is about 500 kilometers south of Manila. The students who topped the nationwide mechanical engineering board exams last month were Joseph Cyril R. Gredoña and Daniel E. Forteza.
Gredoña is a son of a tricycle driver while Forteza is the son of a farmer/fisherman. He got a grade of 92.70 percent, while Forteza got 92.65 percent in the exams.
More importantly, the Sorsogon engineering school has had other triumphs in the past but these have not been widely publicized. Another SSC graduate coming also from a humble family Jhonrey Aguirre, a son of a shellfish vendor, topped the electrical engineering board exams with a grade of 89.65 percent last April. Leandro Salamatin was 10th with a grade of 87.05 percent. SSC first made its mark among engineering schools in 2006 when one of its students, Emmanuel Liwag, came eighth in the electrical engineering board exams. But still no one noticed until the school made a habit of excellence.
The Sorsogon School is one of the oldest trade schools in the country, but not being in Manila it was regarded as backward.
“We don’t have PhDs in our faculty, which we still dream of until now. But we could say our instructors are good teachers while we see a high number of students with talents,” says Felino S. Jasmin, SSC director of branding and communications. He says most of the college instructors have at least 20 years of teaching experience.
Nevertheless the school sets a high standard.
For example, the national passing rate is 62 percent in the mechanical engineering board exams but the school expects its students to reach 79 percent as its passing mark.
While its high standards are admirable there is something else besides the school’s high passing marks.
I think the very poverty and background of hardship of its students was the spur to excellence. A student needs at least P5,000 for one semester. Think of how much a poor farmer, fisherman and tricycle driver earn in a month.
What should the government do in the face of good provincial schools performing better than private schools in Manila? It should give them adequate laboratory facilities. It should entice PhDs to teach there and even help the school link up with their best counterparts abroad like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
SSC charges the lowest rate among engineering schools in the province yet many students still find it difficult to meet the cost of tuition and other fees.
How many more poor but topnotch students are in our provincial schools? We don’t know. The bigger drawback is not financial but the general attitude of belittling provincial students. There might be a Nobel prize winner or a true leader out there. One way is to give jobs immediately to the Sorsogon topnotchers as an incentive to other high performing but poor students.