RA 10533: Usurpation of Authority

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Sunday, May 26, 2013


'RA 10533. An Act enhancing the Philippine basic education system by strengthening its curriculum and increasing the number of years for basic education.'

In fact the Act does not strengthen the curriculum and I shall show later on how a potentially strengthened curriculum was negated via an untransparent process.

We believe the curriculum embodied by the Act has been weakened by the late (grade 4) introduction of English. The Act speaks of global competitiveness. One of the areas where the Philippines enjoy global competitiveness is in the relatively good standard of English compared to, say, Indonesia.

RA 10533 takes us backwards.

***

RA 10533 uses the word 'compulsory' in the context of students attending kindergarten, six years of grade school, and, now, six years of high school. Prior to RA 10157 which introduced compulsory kindergarten, there were six grade school years of compulsory education. Now we have 13! No other country that I know of has 13 compulsory years.

It is unrealistic.

At present 33 percent of students do not complete grade school so 'compulsory' is an empty concept. What proportion of students will complete 13 compulsory years?

***

I have read RA 10533. I have also read the associated House Bill 6643 and Senate Bill 3286. They are all significantly different from each other. Some Congressmen provided inputs to HB 6643 and some Senators on the Education Committee contributed to SB 3286. RA 10533 has been produced by unknown persons from some parts of HB 6643 and some parts of SB 3286. No Congressman or Senator has approved RA 10533. This is not how our legislation is supposed to be enacted. In fact, it is unconstitutional.

One weakness of President Benigno Aquino III’s governance is the arrogation of power by the unelected Executive Branch to the detriment of the constitutionally enshrined authority of the legislative branch.

What to do?

We have three co-equal branches of government. In a situation where there may have been procedural flaws in passing legislation, then the third co-equal branch of government-the Judicial Branch-may be involved in ensuring that there have been no breaches of the Constitution. We believe, therefore, that the Supreme Court should examine whether or not RA 10533 is valid. We hope the Supreme Court takes on this task.

I have also read Senate Journal No 52, dated 30 January 2013. The Journal contains the conference Committee Report on Senate Bill 3286 and House Bill 6643 which as I mentioned are very different from each other. The committee identified the disagreeing provisions of these bills. The conferees agreed to use the Senate version as the working draft. The committee then considered the disagreeing provisions. In some cases it accepted the Senate version and in other cases it accepted the House version. Various amendments were also proposed.

The next step would have been to draft a Republic Act which incorporates the modifications agreed in Committee. The draft Republic Act would then be submitted to Senate and the House for approval. But this did not happen. Indeed RA 10533 is not consistent with the Conference Committee modifications of SB 3286 and HB 6643.

For example, the Committee decided that Section 5 of HB 6643 was adopted as Section 5 of the reconciled Bill. This Section deals with Curriculum Development and RA 10533 omits many of the important paragraphs contained in the House Bill. For example, the House Bill states in Section 5 (f)

'The curriculum shall be information, communications and technology (ICT)-based. It shall equip graduates with the necessary 21st century skills which include media and technology skills; learning and innovation skills; effective communication skills; and life and career skills. Mathematics and Science subjects shall be introduced as early as Grade 1. Science may be integrated with other subjects such as Mother Tongue, Mathematics, Health, and Araling Panlipunan.'

This important section appears nowhere in RA 10533. We recall that DepEd Sec. Luistro in his past pronouncements has not supported Science in Grade 1. We find this unfortunate since young children are inquisitive about natural phenomena. It is via science that children can recognize that their schooling is compatible with real events.

***

The Education Committee met last January 30. There was no opportunity for the full House and Senate to debate and, if agreed, approve the draft Bill. This is because the Bill was never drafted in Congress.

Yet RA 10533 was signed and dated January 30 by House Speaker Belmonte and Senate President Enrile as though it had been through the complete processes.

Congressmen and Senators were inappropriately sidelined. The proper procedures were short-circuited. The Bill was railroaded.

Furthermore the president did not approve the Bill until May 15, two days after the election. He is supposed to sign or veto within 30 days.

Was the time between January 30 and May 15 used to produce a Bill that is acceptable to the Department of Education? Are voters, therefore, wasting their time voting for congressmen and Senators whose good work will be sidelined by an unelected Executive Branch?

Congress has been mistreated and we hope the incoming 16th Congress will, if necessary with Supreme Court approval, seek a proper re-evaluation of the contents of this Republic Act.

Our children's education is too important to be treated in this cavalier way.

'Man, proud man, Drest in a little brief authority.' --William Shakespeare (1564-1616) Measure for Measure act 2 sc 2 l. 117.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 27, 2013.

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