[CEAP National Convention. 27 Sept. 2019.]
I stand here before you to thank God and yourselves for the privilege in the last three years of having served you as your President. This distinction follows many years of service on the Board at different times, and many more years of service as chair of the CEAP Committee on Advocacy. Looking back at this service, which was not always easy, I thank you for allowing me with yourselves to grow in insight into and commitment to the incredible importance of Catholic education in this country. As we have stressed in this Convention: because Catholic Education in the Philippines is so important, we continue to need to come closer together to fight for its continued existence in the Philippines, no matter how strong the opposition. In God’s name we will fight “tame as doves and wily as serpents” (Mt. 10:16)
We are part of the “one system of quality education for all” that the Constitution entrusts to the State, where public and private schools are to function in complementarity.
As your representative in COCOPEA, thank you for giving me the privilege to help articulate and promote the COCOPEA Roadmap for Higher Education: leading you to work at the imperatives in higher education of academic freedom, quality education, complementarity, self-governance of higher educational institutiuons, and a shared commitment to personal development, social justice and the common good. Thank you for the privilege as chair of COCOPEA to break new ground in Philippine education by bringing together the COCOPEA and the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) into a working partnership. In this alliance, thank you for opposing the one-sided support by government for SUCs on the free tuition issue, and for lobbying for legislative provisions that would provide for funding for qualified poor students in our schools.
Even though this is still a work in progres, thank you for objecting to the government’s one-sided support of teacher salaries through legislated increases, allowing itself to be the greatest driver of educational inflation in the country, severely damaging our schools. While we able to experience increases in ESCs and TSS through PEAC, and are grateful for these, thank you for agreeing they were far too small to stop the migration from private schools to public schools. Many of our schools lost valuable teachers. Some of our schools closed.
Through all of these adversities, thank you for not abandoning the mission of the Catholic school. Instead, you worked harder at a deeper self-understanding of our schools as Catholic through the articulation of and implementation of the Philippine Catholic School Standards for Basic Education (PCSS-BE) as an instrument of internal quality assurance, soon to be complemented by the PCSS for Higher Education. There is no other constellation of Catholic schools in the world that has achieved this!
You have articulated, realize, and live the importance of Catholic education in the Philippines, so that you are willing to stand up and defend it, not only against government undermining, but even against episcopal misunderstanding, misjudgment, and misuse.
In this context, but more so towards deeper collaboration between the bishops and CEAP towards supporting our schools and in the interests of the Church, thank you for allowing me to participate in forging a new partnership between the CEAP and the Episcopal Commission on Catechetics and Catholic Education (ECCE).
Thank you for all the work you have done to strengthen our regions! Through your hard work, our regions discovered a new purpose and vibrancy in them. But thank you as well for strengthening the collaboration between the regions and the central leadership and national secretariat of the CEAP.
Finally, I wish to express special thanks in that we showed ourselves to be distinctly Catholic, “for all,” by opening ourselves to support the Bangsamoro and peace in Mindanao, and particularly for your support for the Madaris Volunteer Program, that has had such a huge effect on peace in Mindanao through inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue on the ground.
It has been an extraordinary privilege to serve CEAP in all of these areas. I thank you and the Board for your trust, even as I ask for your forgiveness and God’s for my excesses and trespasses. I thank Ms. Doris Ferrer for her inspiration and support throughout the years. I thank Sr. Marissa Viri for her guidance and counsel, especially in moments of crisis. I thank Allan and Mary Ann and Gillian and all in the National Secretariat for the wonderful collaboration in friendship, even as I thank all at the Ateneo de Davao, Bong Eliab, Atty. Faye Risonar-Bello, Vinci Bueza, and Bernie Jereza for their support during these past three years way beyond their call of duty.
I pray for God’s guidance and help for our new CEAP President, Fr. Elmer Dizon, and all the new members of the Board and officers of the Association. I am certain Fr. Elmer will lead us forward well!
I pray that the Lord strengthen us, guide us, and – as Pope Francis said – make us all young in our ongoing commitment to Catholic education in the Philippines.