A Moment of Shared Discernment in the Spirit of Peace

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[Welcome Address: Catholic Church Leaders’ Peace Summit in Mindanao.  Calungsod-San Vitores Center, ADDU, Nov 28, 2018. ]

In the context of the Mindanao Week of Peace it is my privilege as President of the Ateneo de Davao University to welcome you to this Catholic Church Leaders’ Summit in Mindanao. 

DSC03563Recalling the words of the Lord, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God,” we come together in this Calungsod-Sanvitores Center of the Community Center of the First Companions of the Society of Jesus in the name of peace.  We come together just after the successful celebration yesterday of the 45th General Assembly of the Bishops’-Ulama Conference, and just before the “MSummit” shall be convened also here in this University.  The MSummit is a gathering of Muslim Youth, Muslim Youth of Mindanao, “Mpowered” to drive a Movement for Peace, Salaam, at this Momentous Moment of Mindanao history.

We come together today as disciples of Jesus Christ who came to “bring us life, life to the full” (John 10:10).  “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the Blood of His cross” (Col. 1:19-20). We come together as disciples of Him who is “Head of the Body, the church” (Col 1:18) even here in Mindanao.

Addu-1578We come together in a spirit of dialogue, in the way the Father through the Son and the Spirit engages the world in a dialogue that redeems and transforms our world. In the Spirit we have often entered into dialogue with the Bangsamoro, with the Lumad, with officials of government, with the police and the military, with local and international NGOs advocating peace, and many of these dialogues have been blessed.  Yet, as leaders of the communion of Jesus Christ in Mindanao, as the Shepherds of our communities, as the heads of our educational institutions, as the driving forces of our peace movements, we seldom have opportunity to enter into dialogue with one another.

That rare opportunity we seize during this Summit feeling the kairos of the moment, the pending ratification of the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARIM, RA 11054), popularly referred to as the Bangsamoro Organic Law.   We come together excited by bright prospects of lasting peace, peace which we have ourselves labored to build, yet burdened by dark memories of conflict and of yet unhealed wounds.  Those wounds, despite the imperatives of peace, run deep and underpin the resentful silence, the sullenness, the bitterness, the cynicism and the rejection that often meet appeals for peace.   At the same time we come together disturbed by the protracted struggle of the CPP-NPA which too often appears as sheer banditry and as victimization of the Lumad whom they press into their violent ranks, but whose driving ideals envision a society of greater social justice, dignity of the human laborer, and a future where the productive forces of society benefit not the privileged wealth but all without exception.  We admit that that social justice and that system of production that serves a humane humanity is outstanding.

We come together as disciples of Jesus Christ eager to spread the joy of the Gospel and the hope that the Father bestows on us in sending His Son into our Mindanao.

May this Summit be a moment of shared discernment in His Spirit.  Where we have been ignorant of the roles we have personally or collectively played in creating or abetting the social injustice that underpins hatred and war, through each other may our eyes be opened in the Spirit.  Where we are insensitive to the suffering of our fellow human beings in Mindanao due to social structures with which we are complicit, through each other may we find compassion in the Spirit.  Where we have been feeling helpless to change conditions that abet prejudice, hatred and violence in our Mindanao, through each other may we be empowered in the Spirit.  Where we have been lacking in prayer and in trust in the Father who reconciles all things to himself through his Son, through each other may we find silence in the Spirit.  But where we are called amidst the apathy to injustice in our Mindanao to speak out, through each other may we find our voice in the Spirit.

And when the world pushes back against us, through each other we recall the Lord’s words, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake, rejoice and exult – Gaudete et Exsultate! – for great is your reward in heaven…” (Mt 5:11-12).

In the Lord’s Spirit, may our Catholic Church Leaders’ Peace Summit in Mindanao be blessed.

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In the Peace at the Heart of Islam

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[Welcome Address: 45th General Assembly of the Bishops-Ulama Conference. Calungsod-San Vitores Center, ADDU, Nov 27, 2018. ]

Addu-1505It is my privilege as President of the Ateneo de Davao University to welcome you to the 45th General Assembly of the Bishops-Ulama Conference here at the Calungsod-San Vitores Center of the Community Center of the First Companions of the Society of Jesus.

With the Bishops-Ulama Conference it is my distinct pleasure to welcome His Grace Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, the representative in the Philippines of His Holiness Pope Francis, to our university.

With all the Jesuits worldwide, the ADDU considers inter-cultural and interreligious dialogue as part of its core mission.  In fulfillment of this mission it has been blessed to establish the Al Qalam Institute for Muslim Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia headed by Datu Mussolini Lidasan.

Addu-1537Through this institute we have been deeply engaged in promoting inter-faith and intra-faith dialogue in Mindanao and beyond.  We have researched and documented the historical injustices that have over the centuries been committed against Filipino Muslims, and have advocated the right to self determination and autonomy of the Bangsamoro as part of the Philippine nation.

In this context, we are only Jesuit university in the country with an academic program for Islamic Studies, and have been happy to partner with the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines and the National Association of Bangsamoro Education in managing the Madaris Volunteer Program.

Through our general instruction and formation, our law school, we have been supporters of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) not only in the ADDU but in all the 1497 schools of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines.  We have been happy to support our Datu Lidasan of Al Qalam as a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.  That support continues through our analyses and endorsement of the recently passed Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARIM) otherwise known as the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

In this context we consider it a distinct privilege to support the empowerment of the Bangsamoro Youth in their yearning for and advocacy of peace in Mindanao through the Bangsamoro Organic Law.  Their movement they call the Salaam Movement, the movement for peace.

It is in peace and in the name of peace which we know is at the heart of Islam that I welcome you to Ateneo de Davao University.

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Tayo’y mga Tinawag sa Kabanalan ni Kristong ating Hari

[Kristong Hari Foundation Ika-35 taong Anibersaryo (1983-2018)
Kapistahan ni Kristong Hari – November 25, 2018]

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Sa araw na ito ay kapistahan ni Kristong ating Hari. Ipinagdiriwang din natin ang ika tatlumpu’t limang anibersaryo ng Kristong Hari Foundation (KHF). Nandito po ang mga iskolar at mga manggagawa ng KHF. Mga kaibigan at kasama sa mga pakikibaka para sa karapatan ng maralitang tagalungsod. Nagsimula ang KHF dito sa Parokya ng Kristong Hari noong ako ay Paring Tagapamahala ng simbahan na ito at ng Sabayanang Kristyano ng Kristong Hari. Sa tulong ng mga kaibigan na mga ordinaryong mga manggagawa sa bansang Alemanya, natulungan ng KHF ang ilang mag-aaral mula sa mga maralitang pamilya na makapag-aral sa kolehiyo. Nandito ngayon ang ilan sa kanila. May mga kanya-kanya nang hanap-buhay mula sa iba’t-ibang propesyon.

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Kasama din natin ngayon ang ilan sa mga community organizers, management, at staff ng KHF. Sila ay kasama nating nakibaka para magkaroon ng oportunidad para sa isang disenteng tahanan ang mga maralitang tagalungsod. At isang bunga para sa pakikibakang ito ay ang Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (RA 7279). Ang mga mamamayan sa kaharian ng Diyos ay may karapatan para sa oportunidad na magkaroon ng abot kayang pabahay.

46665480_2101895846520441_7860233911995990016_nSa ating mga pagbasa ngayon, pinapahayag ang pagkahari ni Kristo sa sanlibutan. Sa ikalawang pagbasa, nakasaad na si Kristo ay Hari ng mga hari sa lupa. Iniibig tayo ng ating Hari. Sa kanyang pagkamatay at muling pagkabuhay pinalaya niya tayo sa ating mga kasalanan. “Ginawa niya tayong isang liping maharlika upang maglingkod sa Diyos at kanyang Ama.” (Pahayag 1 : 5-8). Liping maharlika, mga mamamayan ng kaharian niyang kanyang tinatawag para maglingkod sa kanya.

46508050_2101895313187161_4219281493979037696_nSa paglilingkod sa ating Hari, kailangan nating maging banal. Ito ang panawagan ni Papa Francisco sa atin mula sa kanyang Gaudete et Exsultate. Tayong lahat na mga mamamayan sa kaharian ni Kristo ay tinatawag na maging banal. Ang kabanalan ay hindi lang para sa kabilang buhay na makakamtan natin kapag tayo ay nasa langit na. Ang kabanalan ay para sa mga buhay natin ngayon. Ang kabanalan ay hindi lang para sa mga sikat na santo, katulad nila San Pedro, San Pablo, San Juan, San Francisco, at San Ignacio. Ang kabanalan ay para din sa mga di kilalang banal, para sa mga ordinaryong tao na pilit na nananampalataya habang nagpupursiging harapin ang mga pagsubok ng buhay. Para din sa mga taong sugatan na ang tanging kinakapitan ay ang kanilang pananampalataya kay Kristo. Tinatawag tayong lahat ng Diyos para maging banal. Ikaw at ako ay tinatawag. Ang kanyang panawagan ay hindi imposible. “Walang imposible sa Panginoon natin Diyos” (Lk 1:37).

46524115_2101895269853832_7966671057086054400_nAno ang mga puede nating gawin para maging banal sa kaharian ni Kristo? Meron akong tatlong mungkahi.

Una, iniimbitahan ko kayong pagnilayan kung bakit nyo pinili ang mga propesyon o trabahong kinabibilangan ninyo ngayon. Dahil lang ba ito sa sweldo o kita? Importante ding pagnilayan ang kaugnayan ng ating gusto at pinili para sa ating buhay kumpara sa kung ano ang ninanais at pinili ng Panginoon para sa atin. Dito sa kaharian ng ating Panginoon, ang tagumpay ay di nasusukat sa laki o liit ng sweldo, kundi sa pinagnilayang katotohanan na ang aking ginustong gawain ay ang gawaing ninais ng ating Panginoon para sa akin. Ang unang hakbang sa pagiging banal ay ang alamin at pagnilayan natin kung ano ang gusto ni Kristo para sa atin.

46523673_2101895703187122_6481944310748020736_nPangalawang mungkahi, tumulong at maglingkod tayo sa ating kapwa kahit nasaan man tayo at kung ano man ang ating trabaho o propesyon. Magmahal gaya ng pagmamahal ng Diyos sa atin. (Deut 6:5). Maging perpekto tulad ng ating Diyos na perpekto (Mt. 5:48). Maging mapagpatawad dahil ang Diyos natin ay mapagpatawad (Lk 6:36). Magsilbi gaya ng pagsisilbi ni Hesus. Sa aking palagay, wala nang hihigit pang imahen ng kabanalan sa paghuhugas ni Hesus ng paa ng kanyang mga disipulo. Para sa Santo Papa, ang kabanalan ay nasa ordinaryong tao na nagpupursigi sa buhay gamit ang kanyang pananampalataya. Ang kabanalan ay nasa mga katabi natin ngayon. Mga taong sugatan sa buhay ngunit pilit na lumalaban sa tulong ng kanilang pananampalataya sa ating Hari. “Ikaw ay maging banal dahil Ako na Panginoon mo ay banal. Maging banal ka dahil ginawa ka mula sa aking imahen” (cf. Gen 1:27)

46492908_2101895533187139_6584441003732631552_nPangatlo, dapat nating tangkilikin na ang kabanalan ng ating Panginoon ay hindi nakakadena sa langit. Ang Diyos natin ay may paki-alam sa nangyayari sa ating mundo ngayon. Hindi siya manhid sa hinaing ng mga kapatid natin naghihirap sa buhay. Hindi siya bulag sa mga pinapatay na drug addict sa lansangan. Siya ay apektado sa mga minasaker na mga magsasaka ng tubo at sa human rights lawyer na pinatay dahil sa pagtatanggol sa mga mahihina. Hindi niya tinatalikuran ang ating mundo na puno ng kasalanan. Pinagaling niya ang ating mundo sa pamamagitan ng kanyang dugo sa krus. Sa kanyang Spiritual Exercises, minungkahi ni San Ignacio na pagnilayan ang tugon ng ating Ama sa kahirapan at pagkamakasalanan ng mundo, sa pamamagitan ng pakatawang tao ng Kanyang bugtong na Anak, na naging posible dahil sa pagtalima ni Maria.

Sa ating pagdiriwang ng Kapistahan ni Kristong Hari at sa anibersaryo ng Kristong Hari Foundation, dapat nating tandaan na bagama’t ang kabanalan natin ay biyaya ng Diyos, ito ay dapat pinapalago at pinagtitibay natin sa ating sarili. Sa ating mundo ngayon na puno ng ingay, lalo na sa social media, ang kabanalan ay kailangan ng katahimikan ng ating puso at isip. Palagi tayong nagsasalita at gustong mapakinggan, ang kabanalan ay kailangan ng pakikinig. Lagi nating gustong masunod at mag-utos, ang kabanalan ay mapagkumbaba at kailangan ng pagdadasal. Sa ating pagiging banal, kailangan lagi natin ng gabay ng Espirito Santo. Sa ating kabanalan habang ginagawa natin ang ating mga pang-araw-araw na tungkulin dapat tayong magmasid sa mga nangyayari sa ating mundo upang maunawaan ang saloobin ng ating Diyos para sa ikabubuti ng lahat. Dapat natin laging pagnilayan ang saloobin ng ating Panginoon mula sa ating pagdarasal at sa mga nangyayari sa ating mundo ngayon. Kaya nating maging banal. At tinatawag tayong lahat na maging banal ni Kristong ating Hari.

 

 

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Renewing Ourselves in PAASCU’s Vision and Mission

[PAASCU General Assembly, Century Park Hotel, Nov. 23, 2018]

Last year, we agreed:  To teach, and to teach well belongs to the soul of the Filipino educator.  This is derived from our personal and institutional commitment to truth.  We instruct in truth.  We research in truth.  We serve our communities in truth.

The commitment to truth underpins our commitment to quality assurance.  We must assure ourselves that our claims to quality are not imagined, not contrived, not a product of mere wishful thinking nor self-deception, not a promotional pitch that contributes to the fake news that plagues our world.  We must assure ourselves that our educational quality does not degenerate nor stagnate but improves.  It is in this spirit that we have formally incorporated ourselves in PAASCU, namely, “to assist and integrate the efforts of schools colleges and universities to raise the quality of their education.”[1]  To improve the quality of our education in our institutions, or even just to maintain it, quality assurance is necessary.

We know:  The most rigorous type of quality assurance is accreditation.

Accreditation is at the heart of the PAASCU mission.   As an association, we come together to assure ourselves that the educational service that we render in our schools, no matter the level, is of quality.   Accreditation is not coerced.  It is voluntary.  It is not run by government.  It is private. It is not personal, subjective, arbitrary nor chaotic.  It is professional.  It comes from within, from our shared responsibility for truth in academic freedom.   But because we share this with our ASEAN partners in education through a common ASEAN quality assurance framework, its validity is ASEAN-wide, if not worldwide.  What emerges from the Filipino’s educators’ soul resonates with the ASEAN educator’s soul, if not the soul of all educators worldwide.

While there is much ongoing debate about what “quality” means, the PAASCU understanding that the Board submits to you today for confirmation is that quality necessarily must involve four dimensions:  the achievement of minimum standards in learning outcomes set by government, the attainment of standards of excellence in learning outcomes, organizational fitness for purpose or implementation of the vision-mission of the school, and responsiveness to stakeholders.  When PAASCU declares a school to be of quality, it ascertains that the school has achieved the minimum standards set by government for programs like mathematics or chemistry or literature or for the institution itself.  It ascertains that the school has achieved excellence over and against the minimum standards.  It checks that the school’s structures, facilities, instructional, formative, research and service-to-community activities “fit” their institutional purpose or actually implement their school’s mission and vision.  It checks that the school is responsive to external stakeholders.  With every assessment of quality, it also states how the school might improve in each dimension. In this manner, PAASCU not only ascertains excellence, it develops it.

PAASCU’s Vision and Mission

Hence our reformulated Vision and Mission and objectives that the Board also submits to you today for approval:

PAASCU is the leading, independent, professional association in the Philippines and beyond that fosters quality education through voluntary accreditation.  It is a leading advocate for quality assurance in ASEAN.

PAASCU is a private, non-profit and non-stock corporation that serves its member institutions and advocates quality education through voluntary accreditation.  It is committed to:

  1. Promote member institutions’ implementation of their vision, mission and goals, achievement of minimum standards and evidenced excellence based on learning outcomes, and responsiveness to stakeholders.
  2. Use a development approach to support, empower, and sustain the continuous improvement and innovative initiatives of its member institutions through self-assessment and site visits of member schools, training, research, consultancy services and collaborative undertakings with local and international partners.
  3. Serve the national and global communities through its pursuit of a culture of excellence in education.

The reformulated objectives and core values of PAASCU are also submitted to you for approval:

  1. To encourage and assist member institutions to continually improve themselves through a culture of on-going and cyclical evaluation, self-assessment and peer review for quality improvement.
  2. To assure local and international stakeholders of the quality of education in accredited programs and institutions.
  3. To strengthen the capabilities of educational institutions for service to the nation, ASEAN and beyond.
  4. To promote and integrate the efforts of members institutions to elevate the status of education in the Philippines.
  5. To assist member institutions and their graduates in their quest for national, regional and international recognition of their academic programs.
  6. To collaborate with national and international agencies and organizations involved in quality assurance.
  7. To provide training, research, consultancy and quality assurance service to educational institutions and other agencies/organizations inside and outside the country.
  8. To ensure the growth and sustainability of the association through research and the periodic updating of accreditation processes.
  9. To provide regular capability building of staff and accreditors.
  10. To utilize appropriate and updated technology in the operation of PAASCU.

PAASCU’s eight core values:

  1. Quality. The pursuit of quality education drives the vision-mission, objectives and the undertakings of the association.  The pursuit of quality is a continuing and cyclical process. 
  2. Leadership. Initiatives and undertakings to ensure the relevance of standards, appropriateness of accreditation practices and innovativeness. 
  3. Integrity. Decisions and undertakings are based on facts, fairness and impartiality.  PAASCU has clear policies on confidentiality and conflict of interest. 
  4. Compassion. PAASCU is rigorous and objective, developmental and compassionate. 
  5. Transparency. The processes, internal and xternal, are transparent, and the accreditation status is clear and is duly communicated to stakeholders. 
  6. Accountability. PAASCU takes responsibility for judgments and decisions made. 
  7. Flexibility. Changes and modifications are considered in the development of standards and instruments in the practice of accreditation.
  8. Community. PAASCU, its member institutions and their stakeholders, espouse and foster a collegial environment through collaboration and networking. 

PAASCU in the Service of Quality Education in the Philippines

The PAASCU Vision and Mission is in the service of quality education in the Philippines.

The general mission of education in the Philippines, I believe, can be defined by its objectives.  On the minimal level that is universally applicable, the objectives are defined by the State which has the duty to “protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels” and to take appropriate steps to make that education “accessible to all” (Philippine Constitution, Art. XIV, Sec. 1).

We may note the explicit constitutional mandate to quality education and appreciate PAASCU’s national role in assuring quality education.

The mission of Philippine education is derived from the “complete, adequate and integrated system of education” that the State is mandated by the Constitution to “establish, maintain, and support” (Art. XIV, Sec 2).

Beyond teaching the Constitution, all educational institutions are to “inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal discipline, encourage critical and creative thinking, broaden scientific and technological knowledge and promote vocational efficiency” (Art. XIV, Sec. 3.2).

The Education Act of 1982 (BP 232) states that the educational system shall aim to:

“Provide for a broad general education that will assist each individual in the peculiar ecology of his own society, to

  • attain his potentials as a human being
  • enhance the range and quality of individual and group participation in the basic functions of society, and
  • acquire the essential educational foundation of his development into a productive and versatile citizen;

Train the nation’s manpower in the middle-level skills for national development

“Develop the profession that will provide leadership for the nation in the advancement of knowledge for improving the quality of human life; and

“Respond effectively to changing needs and conditions of the nation through a system of educational planning and evaluation.

“Towards the realization of these objectives, and pursuant to the Constitution, all educational institutions shall aim to inculcate love of country, teach the duties of citizenship, and develop moral character, personal disciplines, and scientific, technological and vocational efficiency.

“Furthermore, the educational system shall reach out to educationally deprived communities, in order to give meaningful reality to their membership in the national society, to enrich their civic participation in the community and national life, and to unify all Filipinos into a free and just nation”  (BP 232, Sec 4).

For CHED the first mission of higher education is:

“To produce thoughtful graduates imbued with 1) values reflective of a humanist orientation (e.g. fundamental respect for others as human beings with intrinsic rights, cultural rootedness, and a vocation to serve); 2) analytical and problem solving skills; 3) the ability to think through the ethical and social implications of a given course of action; and 4) the competency to learn continuously throughout life – that while enabling them to live meaningfully in a complex, rapidly changing and globalized world while engaging their community and the nation’s development issues and concerns.” [2]

From the State, therefore, the mission of education is about the development of the human individual in Philippine society through general education, so that he can participate in it as a citizen and contribute to its national life through professional or individual productivity. It is a 88mission in “aid and support of the natural right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth through the educational system” (BP 232, Sec 5,1).

Beyond the educational mission defined by the State, the educational mission may be further defined by a religious community which educates both for citizenship in the City of Man as well as in the City of God.  The Catholic school, for example, is first a school; it is valued for its delivery of quality instruction.  But its quality education is further defined in its being a Catholic school in which the joy of the Gospel is proclaimed.  In the Catholic school the tension is acknowledged between, on the one hand, knowing and loving Jesus, “the way, the truth and the life” and, on the other hand, needing in this world to search for truth.  The search for truth in a Catholic school, whether this be in the natural sciences, the social science or in the painstaking articulation of the common good as it affects all human beings on our planet and “our common home,” is as open and rigorous as in any other school.  Catholic schools and Catholic educators in the Philippines, therefore, do not only acknowledge the need for quality assurance; historically, through PAASCU, they have been the leaders in the quality assurance movement through accreditation.[3]  

Special Challenges in Philippine Education Today

While the general Philippine educational mission towards the development of the human being for a humane society and the development of the professional know-how and skills for human beings to be productive in that society may be clear from the policy texts that we have presented above, we face special challenges in Philippine education today which affect quality education.  I will mention only the major challenges:

Lack of a coordinated system of Philippine education.

The Constitution mandates the State to provide one system of Philippine education for all on all levels where public and private schools, colleges and universities are mandated to work in complementarity with one another, but the system lacks effective coordination.  The one “system” is more ideal than real.  The current tri-focalized arrangement places responsibility for basic education in the Department of Education (DepEd), for higher education in the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and for skills development in the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).  There is no educational office that coordinates these three divisions, and there is no educational authority that assures the complementarity between public and private schools, colleges and universities.  Congress legislates with a bias for public education; there is no government office that watches out for the welfare of private education.  Private schools were hurt by educational policy decisions relative to access and relative to salaries.  While the constitutional principle of complementarity is acknowledged, it is not theoretically defined, and is so a product of market accident or of private political advantage rather than of educational or academic system.    While the objectives of Philippine education are articulated generally as above, the objectives of Philippine education relevant to a developmental vision like Ambisyon Natin 2040 or any other possible competing vision of the future as of “the common good” are not worked out.  The complementary roles of public and private schools relative to such a vision are not articulated.  The relative importance of college vs. productivity in the work force after basic education is not decided.  For instance, RA 10533 was crafted on the assumption that higher education is not for all;  RA 10931 is about access for all to higher education.  In such a situation the government-set minimum standards for learning outputs of the one system of Philippine education seem arbitrary and uninspired by any overall goal of Philippine development.  Our people are still poor.  Our infrastructure is still undeveloped.  There is still massive corruption in society.  Our education is more western than Asian.  In contrast, one may appreciate how China’s one educational system has transformed its society within forty years from backwardness and poverty into the progressive and self-respecting society it now is, confidently taking on cudgels for global leadership.

The Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2015 (RA 10533)

In order to comply with an international demand for twelve years of basic education, the country has implemented the K-12 reform as defined by the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 (RA 10533).  The addition of two years of basic education in Senior High School (Grades 11 and 12) was occasion for the Department of Education to rethink its entire basic education curriculum and prescribe a learner-centered, learning-outcomes-based pedagogy, with corresponding metrics, that outputted not just banked knowledge but ability to apply knowledge in skills and competencies (“21st Century Skills”).  Performance tasks, and not just quizzes and exams, are a marker of the K-12 reform.  Meanwhile, the addition of Senior High School has necessarily had ramifications in higher education.  The New General Education Program of CHED (CMO 20 s. 2013), based on College Readiness Standards presuming the K-12 reform,[4]  requires mastery of basic disciplines and preparedness for its prescribed multi- and interdisciplinary activities.[5]

The SHS with its tracks (academic, sports, arts and design, technical vocational livelihood) and strands (science technology and mathematics [STEM], humanities and social sciences [HUMSS], accounting and business management [ABM], general academics [GAS]), its 15 core subjects, applied track subjects, and specialized track subjects, is a central output of the K-12 Reform.

The SHS is a complex operation.  While its positive effects are now being experienced in college instruction, critics assert that SHS is overloaded, over-demanding,  and exhausting for administrators, teachers and learners.  Many private schools have used precious resources to invest in SHSs only to experience lack of enrollment due to competition even from public HEIs mandated to open SHS operations.  Other private schools have experienced painful loss of their licensed faculty due to the aggressive increases in salaries in public schools.

In the year after the first graduates of Senior High School have entered into our colleges, there has to date been no comprehensive evaluation of the K-12 reform.

The Universal Access to Quality Education Act of 2018 (RA 10931)

The Universal Access to Quality Education Act began as a Free Education in SUCs bill.  Through the vigorous opposition of the CHED, the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS), the Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) and surprisingly even the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC), the bias for the SUCs was balanced with the formal recognition of the complementarity between the public and private schools and provision for State support for qualified students opting to go to private HEIs.  Thus RA 10931 provided for a tertiary education subsidy (TES, Sec. 7) and for the Student Loan Program for Tertiary Education (SLPTE, Sec 8).  Responsibility for these two funds was vested in an expanded Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UNIFAST) Board.

Unfortunately because of the late formulation of the implementing rules and regulations for the TES and the SLPTE, free education in SUC based on this law was implemented before students could avail of the TES and the SLPTE.  While budget was allocated for some 300,000 students nationwide for this academic year, students going to private schools could not benefit from them.  This caused significant loss of enrollment in many private schools, damaging, endangering or killing many quality programs.

The Philippine Qualifications Framework of 2018  (RA 10968)

Under Pres. Benigno Aquino the Philippine Qualifications Framework (PQF) was established by Executive Order 83 s. 2012.  As of Jan 16, 2018, the “PQF Act” or RA 10968 establishes it by law with the following objectives:

  • To adopt national standards and levels of learning outcomes of education.
  • To support the development and maintenance of pathways and equivalencies that enable access to qualifications and to assist individuals to move easily and readily between the different education and training sectors and between these sectors and the labor market; and
  • To align domestic qualification standards with the international qualifications framework hereby enhancing regulation of the value and comparability of Philippine qualifications and supporting the mobility of Filipino students and workers. (Sec. 4)

The implementation of the PQF is entrusted to a PQF National Coordinating Council (PQF-NCC).  In the PQF, eight levels of qualifications are recognized.  The painstaking determination of qualifications is still a work in progress.   But the PQF is an essential horizon, and eventually an authoritative guide, for setting standards for PAASCU.

The PQF is the fourth quadrant of the ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework.[6]  While the importance of qualifications is conceded, care must be taken that the goal of quality education, and esp. higher education is not reduced to qualifications (job qualifications).   The critical, innovative, ethical finalities of education are not captured in qualifications.

Our Schools Must Make Important Decisions

These major structural challenges in education, considered, our schools must make important decisions relative to:

The quality of their contributions to the one Philippine system of education, where despite the legal verbiage, it is not clear what the overall goal of the educational system is.  Our schools must determine the quality of their contribution to humanistic education in the hope of building a more humane humanity for the future.  It must determine its willingness to invest in this type of education, which is not immediately and directly supported by government or industry scholarships.  What conditions must we meet through education to construct a healthy, happy, and socially just society? How must we prepare our students through their knowledge of languages, literature, history, foreign affairs, political science to contribute to shaping this future?  In the Philippines, how must we better prepare ourselves to deal with our ASEAN partner countries and with Japan, the unifying Korea and especially China?

Our schools must determine the quality of their contributions to the one Philippine system of education through their quality programs in the natural sciences and technology.   Both are essential not only for appreciating the awesomeness of God’s creation but for harnessing the resources the Creator entrusted to humanity for the good of humanity:  for food, for clothing, for shelter, for medicine, for all that is materially necessary for human flourishing in a clean and healthy environment.  These programs would be especially responsive to the needs of the marginalized to overcome their poverty and would entail genuine multi- and interdisciplinary collaboration in the natural and social sciences, philosophy, theology and technology to create innovative responses that create not only solutions but new sources of livelihood (technopreneurship).  They would prepare our students to participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution using  artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, robotics and 3-D printing.  It is the quality of our contributions that should earn us the funding required for research and training.

Our schools must re-think our programs and structures to encourage and support quality life-long learning.  In the National University of Singapore students are not accepted into university for four years, but for twenty five.  In the University of Ontario 63 percent of the income of the university comes from adult learning.  The relationship between the university and the workplace is becoming more seamless, the barriers more permeable.

The Challenge in PAASCU’s Vision and Mission

It is facing this future of challenge and innovation that we renew ourselves in shared commitment to PAASCU’s Mission and Vision and to its work.

We renew ourselves in fostering quality education through voluntary accreditation.

We renew ourselves in promoting our member institutions’ implementation of their visions, missions and goals, the achievement of minimum standards, the achievement of excellence in learning outcomes, and excellence in responsiveness to stakeholders.

We renew ourselves in our developmental approach to continuous improvement and innovation.

We renew ourselves in the service of our stakeholders not only in industry but in human society in the Philippines and human society in the globe.

We renew ourselves in pursuing a culture of excellence in education.

We do this together, in genuine respect for one another as peers, where all are humble enough to learn from others, and strong enough to share wisdom with others; where all are wise enough to learn from the past, but courageous enough to shape the future.  All contribute to the work of quality assurance out of our shared commitment for education and our shared respect for truth.  All participate in setting the PAASCU standards and appropriate instruments which are responsive to our times.  We are not paid for it.  We do so voluntarily.  It is an exigency from within, part of our Filipino soul.  It entails sacrifice.  But we know the joy of this sacrifice in witnessing the improvement of our schools through our service.  In facing Philippine education today, in facing our future, we know the importance of this sacrifice.  Education must be quality education.  That is the mission of PAASCU.  It is our mission.

 

 

 

 


[1] PAASCU Articles of Incorporation, 2.

[2] Quoted in CMO 20 s. 2013

[3] Confer Catholic Church documents on education: Gravissimum Educationis, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Laudato Si!, Veritatis Gaudium.  Cf also Philippine Catholic School Standards, (QC: CEAP/Phoenix Publications, 2017.).

[4] Approved by CEB Resolution No. 298-2011

[5] CMO 20 s. 2013 specifies core courses and general education electives. “The core courses are inter-disciplinary and are stated broadly enough to accommodate a range of perspectives and approaches. Starting with the self, the core courses expand to cover the nation and the world and various ways of comprehending social and natural realities (artistic, scientific, mathematical). Two other important dimensions are give attention: communicating in different modalities and for varied purposes, and basic ethical considerations that enable communities and societies to live peaceably in the face of competing claims, opposing viewpoints and diverse faiths and cultures” (Sec 3).

[6] The four principles or quadrants of the ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework are:  the External Quality Assurance Agency, the External Quality Assurance Standards and Procedures, Internal Quality Assurance, and the National Qualifications Framework.  In the Philippines the latter is the Philippine Qualifications Framework.

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From Brokenness to Blessedness: A Call for Transformation as Professional Teachers

CEBU CEAP Nov 2018

[Address: CEAP Cebu Secondary Principals Association, IC3, Cebu, Nov. 16, 2018]

You have asked me to address you on the theme: “From Brokenness to Blessedness: A Call for Transformation of Professional Teachers.” You do so, I believe, in the context of the recently concluded National Convention of the CEAP whose theme was: “Sanctificatio: From Brokenness to Blessedness.” The interest in sanctification, in blessedness, in holiness even for us as teachers had been inspired by Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, his call to holiness in our world.

I believe his message is clear. Holiness is not just for the next world – that which we achieve when we finally get to heaven. Holiness is for today. It is for this world. Holiness is not just for the well known saints: Our Blessed Mother, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John, St. Francis, St. Benedict St. Ignatius. Holiness is also for the unsung saints, the unknown saints, for the person next door who struggles in faith to meet the challenges of life. God calls all to holiness. He calls you and me. His call is not unreachable. His challenge is not impossible. “For God, nothing is impossible” (Lk 1:37).

Holiness makes a difference. It makes a difference when through the care of a nurse, a sick person is helped to regain health. It makes a difference when through the skill of an engineer, a bridge is built with strength and beauty. It makes a difference when through the thought and engagement of a statesman enlightened public policy serves the common good. It makes a difference when through a teacher a learner learns to read well, to master mathematics, to appreciate history and to encounter God in all things. It makes a difference when in the family of a teacher, love between spouses is palpable, and children feel their love and the love of God and grow up in the joy of the Gospel. It makes a difference when in their family they can share meals together, pray together, and go to Mass together on Sundays

Holiness is the transformation of a professional teacher that we seek. And I hope this talk can make a modest contribution to this.

CEAP’s Commitment to Transformative Education

CEAP is committed to transformative education.   There have been those who have said education preserves the status quo. They have claimed that the system of production of society forms a substructure that determines a superstructure which preserves the substructure. The economy, they say, creates the spiritual, cultural, legal and educational superstructure which preserves the economy. If therefore the economy produces food, clothing and shelter, but in so doing creates a small class of wealthy exploiters and a large class of exploited poor, the economy will create the religious beliefs and customs, the laws and jurisprudence and the educational system that will keep the wealthy in power and the poor in abject servitude in order to preserve the economic substructure. Here education is about preserving the economic status quo. It is about learning that the unjust society is the way things have to be. The unjust society, the rich in their mansions and the poor in their slums, is presented as the way things have to be, as good, or even as the will of God. The rich go to the schools that keep them rich, that give them the knowledge and skills that preserve them in the ranks of the rich, that give them the know how to get ahead, and the managerial skill to exploit the labor and suffering of the poor so that they can become richer. The poor go to the schools that teach them respect and awe for the leaders of society, docility to those in power, patience in suffering, and the virtue of forgiveness when their masters are corrupt or abusive. They go to school to prepare themselves to do their professional jobs well – for the satisfaction, praise and greater wealth of their employers. When they sell their labor to them, work for them “for a price,” what the rich do with their labor is none of their business, as long as their get their pay. Their life is their pay. They are in the service of their pay, and all the limited joys that this pay brings. And when their pay is too small to cover even the basic requirements of life like the hospitalization of a sick child or quality education for the children, it is their fault for not being disciplined enough to live within their means, for even thinking that beyond what they can afford they have a right to a healthy life or a right to quality education..

CEAP does not engage in this type of conservative education. It accepts that education can do that. It can be conservative. It can be designed just to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the economic status quo. How often have we heard the complaint from the captains of industry and the representatives of business that there is a terrible mismatch between the needs of industry and education? Education is bad, they claim, because it does not prepare its students to do what they want our graduates to do. And that the way to cure education is to align it more to what they require? How many times have we heard the theory that the roadmap of education in the Philippines ends in a job – the jobs they want our graduates to do.

CEAP does not look at the brokenness in society and educate in order to conserve the brokenness. It does not educate to teach the learners living in the subhumane conditions of a slum where his father breaks his back in the construction projects of the rich and his mother washes the clothes of the wealthy that the way they live is way God created them and therefore God’s holy will. It does not educate to make them accept that pollution coming from the smokestacks of the rich man’s factories is what they must humbly accept. It does not educate them to keep sacadas in the service of hacenderos and farmers at the mercy of middlemen who send their children to our schools. It does not educate them to accept all the policies and programs of their local politicians no matter how corrupt because they are in authority, and especially so since they are in control of the police force and are the lords of private armies. It does not educate them so that the boys learn to be engineers and the girls learn home economics and that women take care of the house and children while the men go out to earn a living. It does not educate them to accept and be victimized by the inhumanity, the injustice, the discrimination, the exploitation, and the structures of society that keep poor families poor, separate breadwinners from their families, and make them think that virtue is humility, knowing ones place, and being deferential to their employer’s and their employers friends, associates and political patrons.

CEAP is committed to transformative education, and as part of its commitment to quality education manifests this in its commitment to justice and peace, to engaged citizenship, to environmental responsibility, to poverty alleviation, to gender equality, and to youth empowerment (JEEPGY). It is committed to this as each school, or constellation of schools, discerns how it must be committed based on the reality of their local situations. In justice and peace, it is committed to stopping the violent conflict, to dialogue for peace, to removing the injustice that has been the cause of conflict. It is committed to forming its students to exercise the rights and duties of citizenship. It is committed to contribute to the protection and preservation of the environment, to combatting public policies in open pit mining or in fossil fuel consumption that hurt the environment, but also to changing personal behavior by eliminating use of single-use plastics or stopping wastage of clean potable water. It is committed to fighting poverty by empowering its students to create the wealth that kills poverty and distributing the wealth that overcomes social injustice. It is committed to equality and respect between the genders in the diversity with which God has blessed our society. It is committed to empowering the youth to speak its mind, articulate its sensitivities and pursue its dreams.

Through this commitment, CEAP is committed to transform a society broken by its culture of consumption, greed, corruption, violence and death into a society blessed in its humaneness, where all human beings without exception flourish as human beings under the historical conditions that we now share. This is a humaneness transformed by the Spirit of the Word incarnate manifesting the compassion of the Father for us all. CEAP schools participate in this transformation in the hope, consolation, certitude, joy and compassion of God’s love.

This society transformed by and in the community of the Trinity is not possible without the professional teacher transformed by a vocation to holiness.

The Professional Teacher in CEAP Transformed by a Call to Holiness

Clearly, if the CEAP school is to be an agent, a catalyst, and a servant of God’s transformation of society, those who belong to the community of the school, its administrators, its students, its staff and its teachers are called to holiness.

As I have been asked, I will focus on the teachers. What might teachers do in their professional lives to be holy? I offer only some personal suggestions.

First, I invite our teachers to get in touch again with why they teach. Why is it that they wake up each morning to think of their learners and go to bed at night thinking of their learners? If they teach only for their bi-monthly check I am afraid they are in for a very dissatisfying life. The value of a good teacher for the young learner or for the college student in the context of our developing nation is unlimited. It is priceless.   The bi-monthly check that one receives cannot adequately compensate the teacher for his or her choice to be a teacher, for her training and education, her professional expertise, her class preparation, her actual teaching in class sometimes for four or five or even six exhausting contact hours a day, her individual care of her students, answering their questions and dealing with their personal problems, her correcting papers, her attending committee meeting, her filling out reports, her submission of grades on time. So that if a teacher teaches for a pay check, he or she is chronically frustrated, endlessly discontent, and it would be good advice for such a teacher to find another job. So why is it that the teacher teaches? Why is it that it matters to the teacher that he or she teach well? Why is it such a concern for the teacher that his learners grasp the mathematics or geography or history that he is teaching in such a way that they can actually apply it in their lives? Why is it that it matters for the teacher that her student whose parents are endlessly quarreling is depressed and discouraged at her failure in chemistry and has just posted on FB that she wants to die? Why is it that it matters…? It is important that one return to the reason why one chose to teach and continues to choose to teach, and discern within the congruence between what one wants and chooses in one’s personal life and what God wants and chooses for that person. On this level, one’s fulfillment is not in a paycheck, no matter how big or small the paycheck is, but in discerning that what one wants to do is what the Lord wants one to do. Fulfillment is knowing that what I want to do is what the Lord wants me to do, who comes to bring me life, life to the full.

Second, consider with Pope Francis that the call to teach is a call to holiness. The Lord calls all to holiness. He also calls teachers to holiness. “Be holy, because I the Lord your God am holy.” Be holy because you are created in my image” (cf. Gen 1:27). “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are filled with his glory” (Is 6:3). As Bp. Ambo David emphasized during the National Convention, this is not a call to be powerful, as God is powerful. It is rather a call to love as God loves (Deut. 6:5); to be perfect, as God is perfect (Mt. 5:48); to be merciful as God is merciful (Lk 6:36); to love as the Son of God loved (Jn 15:12); to serve, as the Son of God served. I think there is no more moving image of divine holiness than that of Jesus washing the feet of disciples (Jn 13:2-12). For Francis holiness is in the man next door coping in faith with the challenges of life. Holiness is in the teacher next door coping in faith with the challenges of teaching. God calls him to teaching. He responds in holiness. Coaching the difficult learner, rejoicing with the student who finally passed, helping a fellow teacher prepare a class, enjoying being with one’s family after a tiring day at school are all part of the holiness of teaching.

Third, appreciate that God’s holiness is not locked up in heaven. This is an essential appreciation for CEAP education that is transformative of human society. God’s holiness is not wrapped in on itself indifferent to what is going on in our world. He is not insensitive to the cry of the poor, not uncaring about drug addicts murdered on the street, not unmoved by sugarcane workers massacred in the fields, not numb to the human rights lawyer murdered in defense of the powerless. He does not turn his back on our world in holy indifference to its brokenness. His holiness instead is shared in the sanctification of the world, in healing the brokenness of the world and bringing it to blessedness, holiness. In incarnating himself into our world God heals its brokenness. He heals through the blood of the cross. For the CEAP teacher committed to transformative education, the meditation on the Incarnation in its Trinitarian reality is essential. In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius suggests a meditation on the Incarnation as it takes place in the Annunciation (Lk 1:36-38). One is to contemplate the Father responding to the self-destructive suffering of humankind by sending the Son into the world made possible through Mary’s fiat.  In this context, one might contemplate the profound Prologue of John (Jn 1: 1-18) or the beautiful proclamation in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that all who believe in him might not perish but have eternal life”. Today I would like to recommend for your prayer and mediation a passage from Paul’s letter to the Colossians (1:9-23) that was suggested by Bp. Ambo David during the National Convention that has since moved me deeply. Consider it as addressed to all believers in Jesus Christ, but now particularly to teachers committed to transformative education. It can be considered as the context and horizon of our teaching:

since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, e 10so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified youf to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 

13For he [the Father] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of g your evil behavior. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

I say this text can serve as the context and horizon of our transformative education because it expresses how

—“The Father rescues from the dominion of darkenss,” from the brokenness of our world and from our own person brokenness. We were “alienated from him,” and “enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior.” We were all broken. He brings us into:

—“the Kingdom of his Son” whom he loves, and in whom we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. All fullness dwells in the Son. And through him, who comes to bring us “life, life to the full” (Jn 10:10), the Father reconciles all thing to himself through the blood of his Son shed on the Cross. Through this blood he forgives, blesses and santifies us. He reconciles all things with himself through Christ, all humans whom he loves with one another, all humans with his creation. He does this also as head of the body, the Church. It is here where in the Spirit we have a part as through our schools we participate in this sanctifying reconciliation in teaching and preaching the truth the Kingdom of God, not just in the next world but already now. As Catholic schools we cannot be conservers of the status quo. As Catholic schools we work with the Spirit to transform the status quo into the Kingdom of God.

—His purpose is to present us holy in his sight without blemish, and free from accusation. God does not only transform our society. He transforms us. In transforming us he makes us holy.

Finally, while holiness is a gift, it must be nurtured. While a teacher’s life is hectic, holiness needs silence. While a teacher is practised in talking, holiness needs listening.   While a teacher is practised in instructing and commanding, holiness, holiness needs docility and prayer. While a teacher guides students, fellow teachers, and often members of the civic community, holiness needs the guidance of the Spirit and of persons familiar with the Spirit. But it is in holiness that one is positioned through one’s discipline to read the signs of the times, and to interpret what God wills for the common good. This is essential for transformative education. For, as we have seen, Catholic education does not just teach to conserve the status quo and the socio-political and economic structures that preserve the status quo. Transformative education educates to achieve the common good discerned as God’s will. That discernment is not generated by the algorythms of a computer. It comes out of the prayer of holy persons able in spiritual sensitivity to read the signs of the times. In many cases these holy persons are our teachers. They make a difference.

 

 

 

 

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In Support of a Philippine Space Agency to Reach the Heavens from Philippine Soil

Dr Sese 2018Filipinos use Waze not only to find out how to get to a restaurant, but also how to avoid the traffic snarls which could cause them to miss a romantic date. When they do, they thank God for their smart Samsung or Apple “device” that they paid big money for to operate from their pockets, but may fail to think of the space scientists and technicians who create and run the programs that put satellites in low, medium or geosynchronous orbit and maintain them in our service. Amazing that finding your way through Waze involves your device communicating to a combination of satellites, some of which may be 36,000 km above the surface of the earth and travelling at the speed of 22,000 km/hour! (Cars are held to 40 km/hour in Davao!) Today, satellites instruct my device to tell me where the delayed plane I’m expecting now is, what the current weather conditions are, when to expect the next typhoons, and tell me the magnitude of the earthquake I just experienced. Today, cars operate without drivers through satellites. Internet and telecommunications are augmented essentially by satellites.

Filipinos depend on space science and technology applications (SSTA) not only for quality of life but for life. Like the air, they hardly notice. Satellites are used for national defense. Weather forecasts and 3-D maps that are essential for life-saving responses to disaster are done through satellites. Climate change studies through satellites help human beings survive extreme weather occurrences.

In this environment, it is unfortunate that the Philippines to date does not have a central government agency that addresses all the national issues and activities related to space science and technology applications. This is so even though as early as in the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos the Philippines collaborated with the United States in launching a communications satellite, Philcomsat. In the 1970’s a consortiums of 17 private corporations put up the Philippine Agila Satellite Inc (PASI), which was followed by PLDT’s Mabuhay Philippine Satellite Corp. (MPSC). In 1996, on the urgings of President Fidel Ramos, MPSC acquired an Indonesian satellite which became Aguila I. In 1997, the Philippines launched Aguila II with the help of China. Only in 2010 did the Philippine Government get involved. In 2012, DOST launched its substantial Light Detection and Ranging Project (LIDAR) project used for 3-D mapping helpful in disaster risk reduction and management. In 2016, Diwata 1, the first earth observation microsatellite designed and developed by Filipinos with the cooperation of Hokkaido University and Tohuko University, was launched. This year, Diwata II was launched.

If we have put up satellites in the past, and have actually developed and launched our own, why shouldn’t we have a Philippine Space Agency that would better coordinate and focus our activities in the national interest?   Why shouldn’t we come of age and lead in space science and technology in ASEAN? Why shouldn’t we serve ASEAN with a launch pad in Davao Oriental where the centrifugal force of the earth can be harnessed to help us propel satellites into orbit? As Dr. Rogel Mari Sese, program leader of the National Space Promotion, Awareness, and Capabilities Enhancement Development Program (National SPACE Program) of the DOST says, “having a space program is costly, but not having a space program is even costlier.”

As early as February of this year, President Rodrigo Duterte and DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña have expressed support for the creation of a Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) for this purpose. Hopes were high that the necessary legislation for such could be passed this year, but with the budget still not passed and bills on taxation and labor certified as urgent this no longer seems likely. Today, it is the Senate that is leading in the legislative effort to pass a law through SB 1983 consolidating authored by Sens. Bam Aquino and Lauren Legarda. A parallel HB 8541 is now up for deliberation on the floor.

Nevertheless urgent attention should be given to the passage of this legislation in the context of the State’s policy to:

  • safeguard Philippine sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest and the right to self determination;
  • support the science and technology in the Philippines necessary for the development of the space science and technology applications that would foster patriotism, nationalism and accelerate social progress;
  • ensure Philippine access to space as a sovereign right and to create a national strategy for space development;
  • create a coherent and unified national strategy for space development tht would allow the Philippines to keep up if not surpass other nations in space science and technology applications;
  • be officially represented in the international space community to begotiate agreements and linkages in space development;
  • ensure Philippine compliance in space treaties and agreements within the international space community.

SB 1983 wishes to be known as the Philippine Space Act. It creates the Philippines Space Agency (PhilSA). It mandates it to create the Philippine Space Policy – the country’s roadmap for space development. It embodies the country’s central goal of becoming a space-capable and space-faring nation within the next decade.

The framework of the space policy includes six key development areas;

  • national security and development;
  • hazard management and climate studies;
  • space and research development;
  • space education and awareness; and
  • international cooperation.

In creating the PhilSA, SB 1983 mandates it to be “the primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing, and administrative entity of the Executive Branch of the government that will plan, develop and promote the national space program in line with the Philippine State policy.

In the HB counterpart, the PhilSA operates under the DOST.

In SB 1983, the PhilSA is attached to the Office of the President. It is run by a Director General, who is a cabinet secretary. In the HB counterpart it is attached to the DOST. Its Director General is an undersecretary.

SB 1983 creates a Philippine Space Council that is chaired by the President. Its members include the:

  • Secretary of Science and Technology – Vice-Chair
  • Secretary of National Defense
  • Chair of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology
  • Chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology
  • Director General of the NEDA
  • Secretary of Finance
  • Secretary of Foreign Affairs
  • Secretary of Agriculture
  • Secretary of Environment and National Resources
  • Secretary of Trade and Industry
  • Secretary of Communications Technology

Considering the large requirement of SSTA in qualified scientists, engineers and specialized technologists, the absence of the Chair of the CHED and the Director General of the TESDA in the Philippine Space Council is glaring.

Dr. Rogel Mari Sese closes his lecture for the Planning Workshop of the UK-PH Nanosatellite Constellation with a quotation from William Burrows of the Wall Street Journal:

“The question to ask is whether the risk of travelling to space is worth the benefit. The answer is an unequivocal yes, but not only for the reasons that are usually touted by the space community: the need to explore, the scientific return, and the possibility of commercial process. The most compelling reason, a very long-term one, is the necessity of using space to protect and guarantee the survival of humanity.”

Thank you to the legislators behind SB 1983, esp. Sens. Bam Aquino, Loren Legarda, Sonny Angara, win Gatchalian, Nancy Binay, Greg Honasan and Chiz Escudero, and its HB counterpart. Beyond the budget, TRABAHO and the anti-Endo legislation, the President would do well to certify this legislation as very urgent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ecumenical Prayer for CHED Chairman Dr. Prospero de Vera

[COCOPEA Testimonial Lunch, Manila Polo Club, October 29, 2018]

De Vera COCOPEA 2018 bHeavenly Father, we come together today as representatives of our private educational associations to praise and thank you for the appointment of Dr. Prospero de Vera as chair of the Commission on Higher Education of the Philippines.

45268078_10156215978023208_8920951651397795840_nHe is the appointment of the President of the Philippines, charged together with his Commission with responsibility for the higher education of the one Philippine system of education, public and and private, at a juncture in the history of our nation rich in opportunity but fraught with danger for the people of the Philippines and the peoples of the world.

Father, he is the appointment of the President of the Philippines, but also your appointment, having chosen him from among many, to lead higher education in the Philippines with the knowledge and reason of man, but also with understanding and wisdom from on high.

45238230_10156215978683208_2501723436653477888_nOn this day, we come together to ask you to bless him with your knowledge and your wisdom.  We know, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” (Prov 1:7)  We know, “with God are wisdom and might;  He has counsel and understanding” (Job 12:12-13).  We ask God “who gives wisdom generously to all without reproach”  (Ja. 1:5), to bestow wisdom generously on Dr. de Vera.

Father, let Dr. de Vera’s wisdom be your wisdom as he guides higher education in truth.  Let his interventions support the discovery of truth in our research, the transmission of truth in our instruction, the application of truth in our outreach.  But let his interventions for truth be inspired by you who speak to us through your Son incarnate,  “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), who came in your fullness to “bring us life, life to the full” (Jn 10: 10) even at the price of the Cross.  Through his interventions may it be possible for all to encounter that wisdom where “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:25).

In this context, Heavenly Father, let him inspire us to face the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution, even as we as a nation now dare to venture into outer space.  But let him also inspire us to face the challenges of our selves and of the state of our human society on earth, as in our higher education institutions we seek in academic freedom to encounter the truth of nature, of humanity, and of the source, moving force and finality of all in heaven, where you live and reign forever and ever.

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