“This is a violation of the right to free secondary education.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Spurned by the Supreme Court, enraged petitioners against the K to 12 program have vowed to continue resisting the government program until it is scrapped.
The high court dismissed all six petitions calling for a stop to the implementation of K to 12, as announced by SC Public Information Office Chief, lawyer Theodore Te on Tuesday, March 15.
“The Court denied the prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and or writ of preliminary injunction,” said Te.
The Suspend K to 12 Alliance was “saddened” by the SC decision, and said “people power is the only recourse against the K to 12.”
“We have tried our best to convince the Supreme Court with volumes of documents that prove the unconstitutionality of K to 12, yet our petitions for a TRO have been denied,” the group said in a statement.
They call on students, teachers, parents and concerned citizens to collectively “carry on with the fight against this anti-Filipino, Labor Export Policy-obsessed, anti-teacher and anti-student education scheme.”
The petitioners against K to 12 assert that the government is not ready in implementing the flagship program in education of the Aquino administration.
Another petitioner, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said the SC decision will affect the current batch of students, and future generations of Filipino school children “who have to bear the brunt of additional years of schooling under a labor-export and profit-oriented framework.”
“The Supreme Court has turned a blind eye to the appeal of parents and students especially the graduating Grade 10 students who are victims of the unfair implementation of the K to 12,” said Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi De Jesus. She said they are set to file a motion for reconsideration to the high court.
‘Did not summon respondents’
In his open letter addressed to the SC Justices, Professor David San Juan of the Suspend K to 12 Alliance urged the SC Justices to schedule an oral argument so that the public may know how unprepared the government is for its implementation. He said his group was supposed to present the new data they culled that shows that in the National Capital Region (NCR) alone, only 22 percent of public schools offer senior high school.
San Juan said cited the Department of Education (DepEd) estimate that some 500,000 public school students will be forced to transfer to “for-profit” private schools due to lack of ample public senior high schools. He said these students will be burdened with additional expenses, as the government voucher cannot cover the total amount of tuition.
“This is a violation of the right to free secondary education,” San Juan said.
He added that “tens of thousands of part-time professors will be out of work.”
“Di n’yo po ba nakikita na nagkakagulo na?” (Can you not see the disorder) San Juan said to the justices.
San Juan lamented that the high court “put the K to 12 cases on the back burner for a year” without calling for oral arguments. He compared the SC treatment to the disqualification case against Sen. Grace Poe, in which the court held several oral arguments, while it held none for the K to 12 petitions. San Juan bewailed that the case concerns the education system but was not given the same importance.
“Are you not even going to call for oral arguments?” said San Juan in his letter to the SC.
ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio, one of the main petitioners, urged the Supreme Court “to reconsider its stance and to summon petitioners and respondents in oral argument sessions, so as to expose the unconstitutionality of the K to 12 Program which violates the people’s right to free education, teachers’ right to security of tenure, and the constitutional provisions on nationalism as a core foundation of education.”
National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, another lead petitioner, also remarked that the SC’s decision “will negatively affect the molding of nationalist and socially-conscious citizens of the Philippines, as K to 12 abolished Philippine History in high school, and Filipino, Literature and Philippine Government & Constitution in college.”
Lumbera expressed hope that “the Supreme Court will be persuaded to revise its stance, once the voices of those who will be affected by K to 12 are heard in oral arguments sessions.”
For its part, the Suspend K to 12 Alliance “vowed to conduct more forums and assemblies to help expose the ill effects of K to 12, and carry on with the struggle for its suspension or junking.”
Meanwhile, Ridon said with the SC decision, the private school owners are now guaranteed of their profits.
“Today, private school owners might be laughing, as their income from the government’s billion-peso voucher program has also been assured,” said Ridon referring to the P21.2 billion ($451 million) allocation for the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) and the Senior High School (SHS) Voucher Program.
Ridon had assailed how portions of the basic education budget for 2016 are allotted for “sure profits” of private schools.
“The Aquino administration has continually increased funding for GASTPE, which is essentially a budget for direct profits of private schools, yet this fund is not even audited by the Commission on Audit (COA),” Ridon said.
Ridon questioned the over 150 percent increase in funding for GASTPE despite the fact that said fund is “far from being transparent.”
He cited a Commission on Audit 2013 audit report which questioned how DepEd disburses payments to the Private Education Assistance Committee (PEAC) as “subsidy to non-government organization” despite the lack of a detailed accounting report from PEAC.
“In essence, DepEd is engaging the services of a private entity without complying with procurement rules,” Ridon said.
COA also questioned PEAC’s non-submission of the list of grantees for the Educational Service Contracting (ESC) component of GASTPE and the school address where the grantees are enrolled.
Ridon said that under such “shady” mechanism, it is easy for schools to pad and fake its list of beneficiaries to accumulate more profits.
Ridon said under the Aquino administration, the government has already allotted P38.8 billion ($812 million) for GASTPE, from 2010 to 2015. He said may in fact be serving as the primary source of income for many private educational institutions.