Policies, Practices, and Prospects in Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education: Synergies for Sustainable and Inclusive Basic Education in the Philippines*

*A Paper Presented at the 8th National Social Science Congress, 15-17 June 2016, Lyceum of the Philippines University-Batangas, Batangas City

 

I.  Introduction

Broadly, this paper shall present an overview of the policy implementation of mother tongue-based multilingual education in the Philippines within the purview of Republic Act No. 10533, popularly referred to as the K12 Law. With policy reform as the primary concern, this paper seeks to understand the synergies in the implementation, identifying relationships that exist among stakeholders and their role and influence, if any, in the success or failure of the program. This paper also examines if the program implementation is in keeping with the policy provisions as well as the underlying theories and assumptions of mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTBMLE). Specifically, this paper presents a case of implementation at the community level.

This paper utilizes the data from a study commissioned by the University of the Philippines-Center for Integrative and Development Studies (UP-CIDS) on the implementation synergy of MTBMLE in schools and the broader community in view of the provisions of Republic Act 10533, also known as the K12 Law. Using purposive sampling, the study was conducted in selected areas in seven regions in the Philippines, namely: Ilocos, Bicol, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Western Mindanao, Central Mindanao, and Southern Mindanao. The study started with consultative forums and orientation about the study where key stakeholders are invited and interviewed. The key stakeholders include the Department of Education through its officials at various levels, teachers, students, parents, non-governmental organizations, parents-teacher associations, local government units, local media, local writers and artists, private sector and business, people’s organizations, higher education institutions, and elders of ethnolinguistic groups. The study was concluded on December 2015 and this paper benefits from the baseline information gathered. For this paper, however, the focus is on the case of Tacurong Pilot Elementary School in Tacurong City, in the province of Sultan Kudarat.

MTBMLE is “starting where the children are,” to borrow the title of a book on the subject. It is the use of a learner’s first language as the medium of learning. Positions vary as to the length of exposure to first-language learning to achieve proficiency. Some scholars argue for longer exposure (Thomas and Collier 1997) while others propose an early exit. MTBMLE practices also vary according to social contexts. In parts of Southeast Asia, community-based implementation is the preferred mode as is an inexpensive and sustainable.

The key policy provisions examined in this paper are to be found in Sections 4 and 5 (c), (f), (h) of RA 10533. Section 4 provides that “for kindergarten and the first three (3) years of elementary education, instruction, teaching materials and assessment shall be in the regional or native language of the learners. The Department of Education (DepED) shall formulate a mother language transition program from Grade 4 to Grade 6 so that Filipino and English shall be gradually introduced as languages of instruction until such time when these two (2) languages can become the primary languages of instruction at the secondary level.

For purposes of this Act, mother language or first Language (LI) refers to language or languages first learned by a child, which he/she identifies with, is identified as a native language user of by others, which he/she knows best, or uses most. This includes Filipino sign language used by individuals with pertinent disabilities. The regional or native language refers to the traditional speech variety or variety of Filipino sign language existing in a region, area or place.”

Meanwhile, in Section 5, the following explicit provisions provide the basis for MTBMLE implementation:

(c)       The curriculum shall be culture-sensitive;

(f)       The curriculum shall adhere to the principles and framework of Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) which starts from where the learners are and from what they already knew proceeding from the known to the unknown; instructional materials and capable teachers to implement the MTB-MLE curriculum shall be available; and

(h)      The curriculum shall be flexible enough to enable and allow schools to localize, indigenize and enhance the same based on their respective educational and social contexts. The production and development of locally produced teaching materials shall be encouraged and approval of these materials shall devolve to the regional and division education units.

Section 12 of RA 10533 provides for the formulation of strategies for transition from the old 10-year basic education cycle to the enhanced 12-year system, and from the bilingual English-Filipino education policy across levels to MTBMLE for the early grades with a transition provision of up to Grade 6

 

II. Language-in-Education Policy Evolution

The Philippines’ language-in-education policy has evolved with the imperatives of the state and its institutions over time and the policy embedded in the fundamental law defines the tenor by which government responds to the educational demands of the time. During the Spanish colonial period, our school system had Spanish as the official medium of instruction. The use of Spanish language is extended to civil service and business. During the short-lived first Philippine Republic, the 1899 Malolos Constitution made Spanish compulsory in public and judicial affairs. During the American period, English replaced Spanish as the official State language and the language used in commerce and trade. Eventually, the post-war establishment of the Philippine Republic precipitated also a shift in language-in-education policy. But as early as the Commonwealth period, former president Manuel L. Quezon had already envisioned a national language based on Tagalog, the lingua franca of his region and his mother tongue. Quezon’s vision is articulated in Article XIII, Section 3 of the 1935 Constitution, which provides that “The National Assembly shall take steps toward the development and adoption of a common national language based on one of the existing native languages. Until otherwise provided by law, English and Spanish shall continue as official languages.” In response, the First National Assembly approved in November 13, 1936 Commonwealth Act No. 184, mandating the creation of the National Language Institute (NLI).

The goal of the Institute was to recommend one of the existing native languages to be used as the basis for a national language. On December 30, 1937, President Quezon signed Executive Order No. 134 s. 1937 proclaiming the national language of the Philippines based on Tagalog language as recommended by the members of the NLI. The said executive order would precipitate initiatives for full policy institutionalization, namely a national language based on Tagalog. The institutionalization of the Tagalog-based national language, then called Pilipino, found traction during the Japanese occupation when it was used as the language of the propaganda, bringing the language to areas where it was not even spoken, much less understood. However, the national language project was not without opposition as there were more non-Tagalog speakers in the Philippines at the time compared to Tagalog speakers.

The language divide that pervaded for decades was left unresolved even after the passage of the 1973 Constitution. Article XV, Section 3 (2) which provides that “the Batasang Pambansa shall take steps towards the development and formal adoption of a common national language to be known as Filipino.” Nevertheless, the provision did not serve to calm the unrest among majority non-Tagalog speakers over the non-feasibility of the provision because as an artificial language, Filipino lacked both native speakers and a literary tradition to help propagate it.

In light of the 1973 Constitution, the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) released DECS Order No. 25 s. 1974, entitled “Implementing Guidelines for the Policy on Bilingual Education,” which served as a basis for the institutionalization of bilingual education policy in basic education. The Bilingual Education Policy (BEP) “aims at the achievement of competence in both Filipino and English at the national level, through the teaching of both languages and their use as media of instruction at all levels.  The regional languages shall be used as auxiliary languages in Grades I and II.  The aspiration of the Filipino nation is to have its citizens possess skills in Filipino to enable them to perform their functions and duties in order to meet the needs of the country in the community of nations.” The BEP is sustained in the succeeding language policy as embodied in the 1987 Constitution, with the following goals: (1) enhanced learning through two languages to achieve quality education as called for by the 1987 Constitution; (2) the propagation of Filipino as a language of literacy; (3) the development of Filipino as a linguistic symbol of national unity and identity; (4) the cultivation and elaboration of Filipino as a language of scholarly discourse, that is to say its continuing intellectualization; and (5) the maintenance of English as an international language for the Philippines and as a non-exclusive language of science and technology. Filipino and English shall be used as media of instruction, the use allocated to specific subjects in the curriculum as indicated in the DECS Order No. 25 s. 1974.

In effect, the 1987 Constitution upholds the designation of Tagalog-based Filipino as the national language. Article XIV, Section 6 provides that “The national language of the Philippines is Filipino. As it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages. Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, the Government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.”

However, Section 7 of Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution provides for the inclusion of regional languages as auxiliary official languages that can be used as an auxiliary media of instruction. Section 9 of Article XIV underscores the promotion, research, development, propagation, and preservation of Filipino and other languages (emphasis mine). In light of the new Constitution, the Department of Education, Culture and Sports issued DECS Order No. 81 s. 1987 containing the Alphabet and a Guide for Spelling in the Filipino Language. The Order stipulated that the Filipino alphabet is composed of 28 letters comprised of the original 26 letters of the English alphabet, plus the letters Ñ and Ng. The order also provides instruction on how to read the letters. On August 25, 1988, then President Corazon Aquino signed Executive Order No. 335 enjoining all government offices to take steps necessary for the purpose of using Filipino language in official transactions, communications and correspondence.

On August 14, 1991, President Corazon Aquino signed into law Republic Act 7104 creating the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), which is tasked to “undertake, coordinate and promote researches for the development, propagation and preservation of Filipino and other Philippine languages.” On May 13, 1992, the KWF under Ponciano B. P. Pineda passed Resolution 92-1, describing Filipino as a native language, spoken and written in Metro Manila, the National Capital Region, and in urban centers in the archipelago where it is used as a language for communication among ethnic groups. Like any other language, Filipino is evolving as it draws from other native and non-native Philippine languages and their varieties as it is used in various situations by speakers for colloquial and for scholarly purposes.

In 1994, President Ramos signed into law Republic Act No. 7722 creating the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). In 1996, the Commission issued CMO No. 59 s. 1996, which states that “in consonance with the Bilingual Education Policy underlined  in DECS Order No. 52, Series of 1987, the following are the guidelines vis-a-vis medium of instruction, to wit: (1) language courses, whether Filipino or English, should be taught in that language. (2) At the discretion of the HEI, Literature subjects may be taught in Filipino, English or any other language as long as there are enough instructional materials for the same and both students and instructors/professors are competent in the language. Courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences should preferably be taught in Filipino.”

Between 1995 and 2009, there have been numerous attempts at policy legislation to strengthen and make English as the medium of instruction at all levels. In the 13th Congress, for example, the House of Representatives passed on third reading the so-called English Only Bill (HB 1339) by Cebuano congressman Eduardo Gullas Jr. However, the Senate failed to act on the Bill, which was intended to supersede the bilingual education policy that is still in place since 1974. The English Only Bill didn’t muster legislative strength and on July 14, 2009, the Department of Education issued DepEd Order No. 74 s. 2009 mandating the institutionalization of the mother tongue-based multilingual education in Philippine basic education. In 2010, the new administration under President Aquino introduced a major education reform via the K12 program and in 2011, he signed into law Republic Act 10533, which subsumes the provisions of DepEd Order No. 74 s. 2009 in Sections 4 and 5.

Yet the most compelling argument for shifting the language-in-education-policy is the outcome of the bilingual policy that has been in place since 1974. While the 1987 Constitution takes notice of regional languages as auxiliary languages, the bilingual education policy in effect is patently English and Filipino only. The Asian Development Bank and World Bank, in a study, pointed to dismal performance and poor mastery of reading and writing skills in Filipino and English of students under the 1987 BEP, which allows use of regional languages as transition languages in Grades 1 and 2 only (ADB and WB 1998). The study, however, pointed out that the failure of the BEP is not due to resistance but stems from its operationalization, which includes factors such as teacher competence, teacher upgrading, instructional materials, support, the same issues that now attend the implementation of MTBMLE within K12.

 

III. Underlying Theories and Assumptions

Mother tongue-based multilingual education is contextualized within the fold of Education for All (EFA) which requires that new models of development and language and education policies that are integrative in character and operation be put in place to ensure sustainability of education programs (Malone 2003). The institutionalization of MTBMLE in the Philippines through Republic Act 10533 is a product of a long process involving theory building, validation, and evidenced-based advocacy driven enough to sustain until a certain level of recognition is achieved.

A survey of research reports on the use of language in education revealed that using the learner’s mother tongue facilitates literacy, learning of academic content, acquisition of a second language (enabling learners to be bilingual) and overall academic achievement. Parents, on the other hand, become more involved and teachers are able to assess learning achievement better (Kosonen 2005). In the First Iloilo Experiment (1948-1954), the test results showed that the experimental group using Hiligaynon as the language of instruction was significantly superior in proficiency in language and reading tests and in tests on arithmetic and social studies subjects compared to the control group using English for the same tests among Grades 1 and 2 pupils. For Grades 3 to 6, the experimental group obtained higher proficiency in reading and higher achievement levels in arithmetic and social studies than the control group that learned English starting in Grade 1 (Aguilar 1961). In a similar experiment that spanned ten years known as the Lubuagan Experiment in Lubuagan, Kalinga Province, test results showed significant and consistent advantage for children in the experimental group using Lilubuagen across all subjects in the curriculum compared to the performance registered by children in the control group using the prevailing bilingual instruction in English and Filipino (Walker and Dekker 2011). In African countries, the use of the mother tongue has positive implication for social development as more girls are able to enter school, repeat classes less frequently, and stay longer in school (Benson 2010). A local study lends credence to this as it finds that accessibility to the medium of instruction by the learners contributes to minimization of a phenomenon called school leaving (Nava 2009). Additionally, a longitudinal study spanning 11 years involving a total of more than 210,000 students in both urban and rural schools in the United States showed results that students with the longest exposure to their mother tongue outperform the average native English speaker. Students who had an early exit—those that switched to English only after the third grade—in their mother tongue education performed poorly in the latter years (Thomas and Collier 1997).

In terms of operationalizing MTBMLE, Kosonen made a comparative study of language- in-education issues in South-East Asia and China. Drawing observations about general trends, he noted that community-based implementation with a sense of local ownership is the inexpensive, efficient and sustainable way to implement MTBMLE. External stakeholders including local or foreign linguists, educators and academics, NGOs and funding agencies must link with the local stakeholders and should cooperate and coordinate with various stakeholders (Kosonen 2005a). Kosonen’s assertion echoes a Unesco study whose findings of case studies in Southeast Asian countries reveal that community-based and community-managed mother tongue literacy program that is led by a team of local implementers and managers selected by the community is the preferred model (UNESCO 2005).

Malone holds the view that a strong MTBMLE program draws much of its strength from research where baseline information such as language and education situation are ascertained and factors such as challenges and difficulties in program implementation are obtained and carefully analyzed. In a study that examined why reforms in the Department of Education did not transform, it was determined that previous language-in-education policies failed because these were oblivious to research evidence that instructed otherwise (Bautista, Bernardo and Ocampo 2010).

Social acceptance and buy-in are important in that stakeholders should be adequately informed about initiatives that affect them. Higher awareness levels often result in greater mobilization for program support at various phases. Meanwhile, bringing in the right people into the program is an equally important component and refers to competent, motivated, respected, and passionate policy champions. Orthography development is another component required of a strong MTBMLE. In several instances, orthography development proves to be contentious. Protests are held by linguistic communities whose members believe that some agencies of government have stripped them of ownership of their own orthography because they are not involved in its development process. Bow noted that the trend worldwide in the development of writing and spelling system of a particular language community is moving away from an expert or linguist driven process. The preferred mode is a community-based participatory process where the linguist serves as a ‘midwife’ in a workshop that discusses linguistic and non-linguistic issues associated with orthography development (standardization, representation, transparency, acceptability) and propose a plan of action to meet a commonly desired outcomes (Bow 2012). The study in Zambia shows that such model may be challenging and complicated yet community participation can still happen as what people did in Region XII and in other areas where orthography development is being undertaken. This process promotes a sense of ownership and custodianship over their own orthography (Bow 2012).

Curriculum and instructional materials are a given in any learning environment. The curriculum and learning materials enable learners to build strong foundations of the first language (L1) and a bridge to additional languages. The materials should be responsive, contextualized and localized and enable learners to improve performance and achieve education goals, as the case of the MLE+ intervention in Orissa, India lends itself as an example. The Orisa intervention is holistic, culturally situated and historically informed of culturally embedded social, mathematical, literacy and science practices, taking into account the everyday practices and knowledge of the communities that inform the classroom as well as community-based activities such as training given to parents (Panda and Mohanti 2009).

The learning materials should also be appropriate, interesting, challenging, and engaging. It must be noted that communities have diverse socio-economic patterns that must be considered in determining levels of literacy development and in designing appropriate programs to improve literacy skill. Aside from macro-level (nation-state) and micro-level (individual) measures and determinants of literacy, given the new construct of literacy as a social practice, there ought to be a means to study and develop literacy at the community level (Bernardo 2000).

As with any policy or program, a monitoring and evaluation component is necessary to allow implementers and key program stakeholders to make adjustments and to draw lessons and best practices from the implementation. In many cases, it is through monitoring and evaluation that some flaws inherent in program design are discovered. Funding is another major component, and Malone cautions that it should be regular, available, and sustainable and a supportive policy environment is what provides permanence and strength to a program to survive in the long term.

According to Ball, education programs and policies are influenced by several factors in spheres (Ball 2010). Ball contends that a child’s early education is influenced in spheres by—from the most to the least proximate—family, programs in education, training and resources, research, policies and funding, and the macrosystem values. These spheres of influence relates closely with Malone’s framework, in that they correspond on training, research, policies and funding. The programs sphere in Ball’s has to do with curriculum and graded learning materials in Malone’s. The sphere for macro system values is what we often refer to as the ‘big picture,’ and relates to understanding policy formulation within the policy system model.

Meanwhile, a central theme in policies and programs administration in post-centralist regimes is participatory governance, which results from dynamic interactions between government, business, and civil society organizations in the formulation of state policies, implementation of government programs, projects and activities, and in ensuring government transparency, accountability and citizen’s participation (Lucas and Tolentino 2006), and therefore must find its place in every aspects and processes in social development initiatives that aspire to be inclusive such as MTBMLE.

Among the key elements in participatory governance are people’s mobilization and training and awareness raising on participatory mechanisms (Lucas and Tolentino 2006) that provide space for civil society organizations (CSOs) to engage with government agencies together with other key stakeholders. It must be noted that CSOs play an important role in public policy making and program implementation, as in the case of MTBMLE implementation in many areas of the Philippines. The rationale for participatory governance has always been to exact accountability, transparency, and responsibility from government as was the case in the years after EDSA which saw the rise of CSOs as a reaction to the opaque Marcos regime. Training and awareness, as viewed by Malone and Ball, are pursued to encourage better citizen participation and good leadership and governance in local bodies, such as in the Local School Board, the parent’s teachers association, the local education councils and other organizations that engage with the Department of Education.

Participatory governance is closely associated to collaborative governance, defined as a governing arrangement where public agencies directly engage with non-state stakeholders in a collective decision making process that is formal, consensus-oriented and deliberative for the purpose of making or implementing public policy or in managing public programs and projects (Ansell and Gash 2008). Echoing Ansell and Gass, Emerson, Nabatchi and Balogh define collaborative governance as the processes and structures of public policy decision making and management that engage people constructively across the boundary of public agencies, levels of government, and public, private and civic spheres to carry out a public purpose that could not be accomplished otherwise (Emerson, Nabatchi and Balogh 2011). The Ansell and Gash definition, meanwhile, highlights six important criteria: (1) the forum is initiated by public agencies or institutions, (2) participants in the public forum include non-state actors, (3) participants engage directly in decision making and are not merely consulted by public agencies, (4) the forum is formally organized and meets collectively, (5) the forum aims to make decision by consensus, and (6) the focus of collaboration is on public policy or public management (Ansell and Gash 2008). This definition is what guided the research from which this paper is fashioned out and wherein forums initiated by the research proponent, in this case the UP-CIDS, were conducted in the regional centers of the research sites. For a clearer understanding, governance is to be understood as the development of governing styles in which boundaries between and within public and private sectors have blurred.

There is also the need to differentiate collaborative context in network governance from hierarchical systems in terms of leadership. While leaders in network systems spend more time motivating personnel, creating trust, treating others as equals, maintaining a close-knit group, hierarchical leaders spend more time focusing on scheduling, assigning, and coordinating work (Silvia 2011). This differentiation is a valuable insight in the analysis as well as in the identification of advocacy champions of public policy in question from either the public or private sector.

As collaboration becomes more complex as more stakeholders participate, there is a need to keep an eye on the inclusion process. When managed appropriately, the inclusion process can be an active force in creating the virtuous and reinforcing cycle of trust, commitment, understanding, communication, and outcomes that mark successful collaboration (Johnston et al 2010).

Dodge contends that civil society organizations have a role to play in policy formulation and deliberative democratic decision making through what she calls ‘storylines.’ Storylines are narratives used to shift the dynamics of the deliberative system and to advance the CSO’s own interpretation of issues and policy making processes to set the agenda, to construct the content and form of public deliberation to change the rules of the game in shaping meanings related to policy, and align forums and arenas of the discourse across the system (Dodge 2014).

In the Philippine experience, the MTBMLE institutionalization is very much a product of narratives that were brought to the national consciousness by advocates who documented the splinter initiatives in various communities of practice and transform these into one compelling action agenda for decision-making, eventually bringing MTBMLE into the educational mainstream by legislation through the K12 Law. This is an important point for assessment as this provides for a clear triangulation between theories, policies, and community practices.

As with any policy or program, the success of MTBMLE implementation is partly hinged on the kind and quality of the planning involved in different levels, for which this research tried to determine. Margerum asserts that meaningful and effective planning must be based on a two-way communication flow between the public and the planning agency, in this case the DepEd or its specific implementing unit, emphasizing communicative and interactive nature of planning practice achieved through collaborative planning (Margerum 2002). There is so much value in invoking collaborative planning in view of participatory governance demanded of successful policy implementation. Collaborative planning, from the perspective of project or program management, ensures half the success; the other half being the proper implementation. For an inclusive program such as MTBMLE, collaborative planning would come in handy as it involves interaction in the form of partnerships in the course building consensus, development planning, and implementation. Because collaborative planning means collaborative decision making, it is imperative that the key stakeholders are involved in all its three phases: in the problem-setting phase, in the direction-setting phase, and the implementation phase where they work individually and jointly (Margerum 2002).

Finally, a number of issues associated with K12, of which MTBMLE is a major component, is linked much to the very policy design of the K12 Law itself. As noted by Howlett, policy design process is complex, often internally orchestrated between bureaucrats and target groups and usually much less accessible to public scrutiny than many other kinds of policy deliberations (Howlett 2014). As established in this research, the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of 10533 is disjointed from the main law itself, allowing for arbitrary interpretation.

The MTBMLE narrative is full of struggles. In the policy arena, it had to contend with castrations[1] as Prof. Ricardo Nolasco of the UP Department of Linguistics noted the diminution of the salient provisions of K12 that are watered down, making options out of these otherwise educational imperatives.

Nolasco echoed the sentiments of Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo, the MTBMLE champion in the House of Representatives since the 13th Congress until RA 10533 was passed in the 16th Congress, who parried attempts to thwart MTBMLE in favor of an English Only Bill championed in the same chamber by Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas, whose known motive was to support then President Arroyo’s agenda of expanding the BPO sector where frontline service workers need to be proficient in the English language.[2] In fact, as recently as the 16th Congress, Mrs. Arroyo, now representative of the 2nd District of Pampanga, filed House Bill No. 311 seeking to enhance the use of English as the medium of instruction in Philippine schools.

What Howlett conveys is that translating policy aims and objectives into practice is not as simple as it might appear, hence the need to monitor its implementation guided by relevant theories and assumptions. In moving to a new policy design thinking, Howlett suggests starting with the basic reality that there are a variety of different actors interacting with each other for a long period of time within the confines of political and economic institutions governed by norms and standards, each of them with different interests and resources, yet all operating within a climate of uncertainty caused both by context and time-specific knowledge and information limitations as the basis of design efforts (Howlett 2014). It is in this light that civil society organizations and other stakeholders maximize their participation in the policy making processes where allowed to guarantee that the outcome reflects the negotiated form and substance of a given policy. Needless to underscore, social mobilization and awareness play an important role in maximizing such participation.

 

IV. Practices, Partnerships and Synergies: Experience in Selected Areas

Synergy is the confluence and convergence of varying interests unified by a common goal to ensure effective policy implementation. It capitalizes on the strengths, expertise, and specialization of each part in dealing with specific tasks, issues, or concerns that affect the whole as in a consortium (Harris 1981). However, in presenting the case here, the synergies are to be examined on at least two levels, at the national and at the level of the community of practice (COP) to locate specific issues and challenges as well as the emerging practices in the policy implementation of MTBMLE.

The DepEd is the principal national government agency tasked in implementing the state policy on basic education, including specific provisions contained in Republic Act No. 10533. Despite its size, scope of operations, DepEd does not have all the technical expertise necessary to fully support policy implementation. For this reason, the DepEd forges partnerships with different stakeholders. At the macro level, the DepEd works with higher education institutions in the development of orthographies and learning materials and in training teachers in the use of the developed materials.[3] The Department of Linguistics of the University of the Philippines Diliman, for example, has been continuously providing assistance to DepEd on initiatives and concerns pertinent to orthography and linguistics research. Faculties from the College of Education of the same university have been consulted as well by the DepEd on pedagogy and assessments. Scholars from various state universities such as the University of the Philippines Baguio, Philippine Normal University (PNU) and Leyte Normal University (LNU) have also been engaged by the DepEd through its various regional units for the skills training of public school teachers in learning materials development and production. Aside from the academia, the DepEd also consults with the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) in providing guidance on orthography development in some areas.

The Philippine Normal University in Manila has pioneered a graduate level program that offers advanced studies for MTBMLE practitioners and education students who wish to further their skills and knowledge in multilingual education that will come in handy upon their induction into the teaching profession. As a leading teacher education institution (TEI), PNU has lent its resources to the DepEd for the various departmental initiatives in the institutionalization and strengthening of MTBMLE and provided the venue for various teacher training programs. Furthermore, PNU also maintains at least two centers that work on producing quality teachers and ensuring the delivery of quality education to learners—the Center for Planning and Quality Assurance and the Philippine National Research Center for Teacher Quality.  In Leyte, academics at the LNU have initiated a project that put together the first 1,000 commonly used words in Waray into a Waray-English dictionary that serves as an important resource for MTBMLE educators in the region. This is among the HEI initiatives in the region in a collaborative response to the needs of MTBMLE implementers who have difficulty navigating the challenge of teaching and managing multilingual classrooms.

For years, the DepEd has been in partnership with a number of international non-governmental organizations in its programs and projects, among the more recent with the USAID’s for the Basa Pilipinas Project which has complemented the education department’s supply of reading materials in the early grades by producing story books for children in their own languages. For technical assistance, the DepEd has engaged consultants from the Summer of Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and Talaytayan MLE Consortium. The DepEd has also mobilized resources by partnering with Save the Children, another international non-governmental organization involved in child welfare with strong presence in the Philippines. Countless other NGOs, both local and foreign-based, have partnered with the DepEd in its various programs and projects. A relatively new player to engage with DepEd is Teach for the Philippines, [4] which deploys a cadre of young teacher volunteers to selected schools across the archipelago to fill in some gaps in the teaching force. Many of these volunteer teachers are graduates of top notch education schools.

The private and the business sector are an important and fairly represented stakeholder. The numerous chambers of commerce have been donating school buildings to the DepEd. Other groups of civic-minded business people also engage with DepEd by offering free English language training courses to public high school students and graduates who wish to be part of the country’s business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.[5] Still, other business groups such as the Philippine Business for Education or PBED work to complement the teaching force of DepEd by mobilizing the business community to finance the scholarships of prospective teachers in partnership with teacher education institutions.[6]

The international donor community is also among the major education stakeholders. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have continuously provided aid packages to the Philippine government to achieve its education goals. The facility provided by these donors is a major resource for the country as it aims to meet the local, regional, and global goals in education as spelled out in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. This group also extends valuable technical assistance to the education sector by funding and conducting researches that examine various issues and challenges that affect the sector.

The media, for their part, play a rather significant yet indirect role in education on account of their ability to deliver educational information with pervasiveness and wider reach. Except perhaps in areas where television or Internet connection has low penetration rates, or where the latter suffers from poor connection, the rest of the country is fairly covered by media as well as the Internet and social media. However, DepEd’s relationship with the media has always been passive, often reduced to the usual coverage of DepEd events, especially controversial ones that invite public curiosity and scrutiny from time to time. Hence, the huge potential of media as major partner in improving the delivery, and possibly quality, of instruction aside from projecting DepEd as either ill- or well-managed organization has not been fully tapped.

One of the most enduring partnerships that DepEd has forged is with local government units (LGUs) by way of the Local School Board (LSB) where DepEd and LGUs work together to address school and education related concerns within their jurisdiction. While by law the LSBs are established in all LGUs in the Philippines, the kind and quality of relationship between the LGUs and the DepEd at various levels vary from one local school board to the next, the resulting synergies of which affect the implementation of national and local education policies, programs, and initiatives. The local school board system is a creation of Republic Act 7160, the Local Government Code of 1991. Co-chaired by the local chief executive and the highest DepEd official at the district or division level, the LSB serves as an advisory committee to the municipal, city or provincial council on educational matters, including uses of local appropriations for educational purposes involving the Special Education Fund drawn from special tax on real property imposed by local governments to supplement the budget requirements in the operation and maintenance of public schools.

Finally, the parents are as important stakeholders as teachers. Among the earliest forms of partnership in education—long before the establishment of local school boards and the advent of non-governmental organizations—was between parents and teachers through the Parent Teacher Association, now fully institutionalized and present in all public schools under DepEd. Its role has evolved and its privileges as well as accountabilities have been further clarified in a DepEd Memorandum Order No. 54. 2009.

A. Macro Components, Synergies and Cross-collaborations for Sustainable MTBMLE Implementation

At the macro level, the following components for sustainable MTBMLE implementation are established: (a) preliminary research, (b) awareness raising and mobilization, (c) recruitment and training, (d) acceptable orthography, (e) local development of materials, (f) teacher training/preparation, (g) availability of graded learning materials, (h) mechanisms for coordination and monitoring and evaluation, (i) availability and accessibility of funding to sustain the program, and (j) supportive policy environment.

The institutionalization of MTBMLE in DepEd in the middle of 2009 via DepEd Order No. 74 s. 2009 was guided by research and evidence culled from the studies of Aguilar known as the Iloilo Experiment and also from the results of the Lubuagan Experiment. MTBMLE, in effect, is a corrective policy of the failure of previous language-in-education policies for not heeding research evidence that instructed otherwise (Bautista, Bernardo and Ocampo 2010).

Awareness raising and mobilization for wider public acceptance and support for MTBMLE did not fall on DepEd’s shoulder alone as advocacy groups and NGOs, both based locally and internationally, also took part in this challenging task to ensure the program is understood by a larger audience.

The first adopters and implementers of MTBMLE pre-RA 10533 were among the recruits who were trained to implement the program. They were chosen from various schools and ethnolinguistic backgrounds across the country and were assembled for an intensive training on all facets and aspects of MTBMLE, including orthography, materials development and in the use of the materials they developed. Some of the early adopters eventually became MTBMLE champions in their schools and communities. Recruitment and training of the right people who will ensure the sustainable implementation is ongoing especially in view of the need to fill up at least thirty thousand teaching positions across levels with the full implementation of K12.

Orthography development for languages with no spelling system in place is ongoing, and DepEd at various levels works closely with its partners—advocacy groups and NGOs—to complete this task, especially for the languages identified as MOIs in the two departmental orders issued in 2012 and 2013. The KWF, another government agency, is also involved in this undertaking.

Though marred by confusion on the meaning and extent of the devolution in production and approval, local development of materials is ongoing in various communities in varying degrees of difficulty and success, depending on factors such as time, talents, and resources necessary for this endeavor.

Teacher training and preparation is now aligned with K12 and other existing policies and agreements and quality commitments. TEIs/HEIs, in view of the reforms in basic and higher education, are in close coordination with other key stakeholders such as Tesda, NGOs, the business community and the private sector over a shared mission of improving instruction and the quality of graduates produced by these institutions.

Graded learning materials are now available and accessible via DepEd’s Learning Materials Development and Management System which maintains an online hub utilizing the Internet and cloud computing. The LRMDS is the repository of all resources relevant to the implementation of K12 and other programs. The quantity and quality of the said materials are continuously being monitored, evaluated, and improved.

The system for coordination and monitoring and evaluation is also in place, allowing the stakeholders and the public in general to provide feedback necessary to further improve MTBMLE and other programs’ implementation. This component is also linked to a government-wide performance measurement system designed to optimize resource utilization invested into such program.

Funding for sustainable MTBMLE implementation is made permanent and available upon the passage of Republic Act 10533, which guarantees allocation to the program. However, access to funds has been further rationalized to minimize leakage and non-utilization as absorptive capacities of government agencies such as DepEd is continuously being reviewed.

Lastly, a supportive policy environment is in place, starting with the legislation of K12 which embraces MTBMLE and the issuances of supporting legislations and departmental orders to ensure full policy implementation.

As far as exploring synergies, linear or direct and cross-collaborative arrangements are noted in this paper as far as engagements by DepEd with other stakeholders and as far as stakeholders other than DepEd collaborate with each other across components and levels of policy implementation. The following are the direct or liner collaborative arrangements:

DepEd and HEIs/TEIs. DepEd under this arrangement has entered arrangements with the faculties from College of Education and the Department of Linguistics of the University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippine Normal University Main, University of Philippines Baguio, Leyte Normal University. The partnership and collaboration pertain to the provision of skills training for public school teachers in orthography development, materials development and their proper use, pedagogy, reading, and assessments.

DepEd and other government agency/ies. DepEd has a working relationship with KWF as the latter is being consulted by DepEd on matters relating to use of Filipino as the national language. DepEd also partners with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples or NCIP for the delivery of instruction to indigenous peoples communities across the country. The CCT Program of the government, also known as 4Ps, brings DepEd DoH, DSWD together in a close partnership as they cater to a common clientele—disadvantaged school-age children who need to be nourished and in school and whose mothers’ maternal health needs require attention.

DepEd and international and local NGOs. DepEd has also engaged SIL and Save the Children for skills training on materials development and orthography development workshops. Its engagement with the advocacy group Talaytayan MLE Consortium also involves skills training and awareness raising and social mobilization. DepEd also benefits its engagement with Teach for the Philippines, a local counterpart of Teach for America, which deploys young teacher volunteers to school communities in need.

DepEd and business community and the private sector. DepEd and PBED are working together to train teachers to complement DepEd’s teaching force. DepEd also benefits from the philanthropic and civic minded organizations in terms of donations ranging from personal computers to classrooms to entire buildings.

DepEd and international donor organizations. The World Bank and Asian Development bank are a constant source of fund for DepEd’s reform initiatives and together they have developed tools and interventions toward these ends. DepEd is in partnership with USAID through the Basa Piipinas Project that provides, among others, big books for use in the early grades. Is it also in partnership with Australian Aid for Scholarships for Teacher Education Programs to Upgrade Teacher Quality in the Philippines or STEP UP.

DepEd and media. The media have been helpful to DepEd in disseminating information that needs to reach the widest audience possible. Due to its reach, nearly all regional units of DepEd are covered in their activities.

DepEd and LGUs. DepEd and local government units are said to be inseparable partners because of the so-called forced marriage that binds them in the form of the LSB, which serves as an advisory committee to the municipal, city or provincial council on educational matters, including uses of local appropriations for educational purposes involving the Special Education Fund drawn from special tax on real property imposed by local governments to supplement the budget requirements in the operation and maintenance of public schools.

DepEd and Parents. The partnership between DepEd and parents via the PTA precedes all partnerships and even considered by some as the most important at the school level. This partnership is further strengthened by DepEd Memorandum Order No. 54. s. 2009.

The following are cross-collaborations are noted in this paper:

NGO/Private Sector and International Donor Organization. PBED has a partnership with Australian Aid and DepEd for Scholarships for Teacher Education Programs to Upgrade Teacher Quality in the Philippines or STEP UP. STEP-UP is a scholarship campaign by  PBEd, funded by the Australian Government, under the Basic Education Sector Transformation (BEST) program that seeks to attract good-performing college graduates and professionals into the teaching profession by offering them competitive scholarship packages. According to its website, a total of 1,000 scholarships will be awarded to deserving candidates between the years of 2015 to 2019. The goal of the program is to produce 1,000 high quality teachers ready for public school employment by 2019.

Among International Donor Organizations. The World Bank and ADB have joint undertakings for the Philippine basic education sector, principally through the Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda or BESRA which ran from 2005 to 2010, which supports the institutionalization of MTBMLE in the country. This undertaking is also participated in by Australian Aid and USAID.

Higher Education and International NGO. The UP College of Education and SIL have collaborated on skills trainings on materials development and orthography development for public school teachers.

International and Local NGOs and Local Advocacy Group and Higher Education. Save the Children, SIL, Talaytayan MLE Consortium, and the Univerasity of the Philippines through relevant colleges and departments have collaborated on MTBMLE awareness raising and mobilization pre-Republic Act 10533, holding countless public forums across the country, which culminated in the issuance of Deped Order No. 74 s. 2009 institutionalizing MTBMLE in the Philippine basic education system.

Higher Education and International Donor Organzation. The UP College of  Education and Australian Aid are collaborating on a study on MTBMLE classroom practices in selected areas in the Philippines.

USAID and ADB. The Basa Pilipinas, which benefits the DepEd literacy program and learners in the early grades, is a collaboration between USAID and ABD.

Teach for the Philippines and ADB. ADB and Teach for the Philippines have a funding arrangement for SY 2014-2015.

 

Synergies in Components

Figure 1. MTBMLE Components, Stakeholders and Synergies

 

B. Components and Synergies in Local MTBMLE Implementation

Preliminary research. The program implementers at Tacurong Pilot Elementary School (TPES), for example, are guided by their trainings on MTBMLE, which draws from the experiences of previous attempts at institutionalizing a multilingual education policy in some areas of the country, foremost among these the so-called Iloilo Experiment undertaken for years by the late Dr. Jose Aguilar and which produced some encouraging results that provided the argument for pursuing what is now called the MTBMLE (Aguilar 1961). For its part, the Division of Tacurong has its own system of drawing baseline information—the kind that Malone sets as one condition for sustainable implementation—such as language and education situation in its area of operation. It is through this activity that its management is able to plan and allocate its limited resources in the schools under its jurisdiction, including TPES. Research at the local level, however, is more of a function of a teacher education institution or any higher education institution for that matter. However, knowing that research determines challenges and difficulties in program implementation, some teachers in the Division of Tacurong, and at TPES itself, who are taking masteral studies are doing action research on MTBMLE to improve on the delivery and effectiveness of instruction. In fact, the regional leadership encouraged and incentivize teachers who do action research to improve MTBMLE implementation in their respective schools.[7] The regional leadership understands the value of a long-term study on MTBMLE, as Thomas and Colliers did, but it is also aware of its limited resources, hence the need to collaborate with TEIs/HEIs operating in the region. This has been the strategy of DepEd Region XII, which is host to a few reputable state and private universities in the area, among them University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato, the Sultan Kudarat State University in Isulan, and the Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal City, the regional center. In terms of technical assistance, teachers at TPES benefit from whatever the Regional Office is able to mobilize from its partners, among them business groups, nongovernmental organizations, and other bodies based either locally or abroad. The assistance on learning materials development and teachers training provided by the local office of Save the Children, for example, has benefitted MTBMLE teachers in TPES, even before the Department of Education rolled out its own training for teachers starting in 2012. In fact, according to teachers at TPES who have gone through both trainings, the one provided by Save the Children is more beneficial to them than the training they got from DepEd. When probed why, the teachers explained that the DepEd MTBMLE training time, which was embedded in the training for K12 implementation, was too short at two hours, leaving them yearning for more.

Awareness raising and mobilization. Within TPES, this activity is reduced to explaining to the parents among early grade pupils in PTA meetings the value and benefits of MTBMLE. Essentially, the kind of awareness raising is what Kosonen premised his first-things-first on language and education: that the use of mother tongue facilitates literacy, learning of academic content, acquisition of a second language, and overall academic achievement. Outside its walls, the confluence of advocates and NGOs doing child welfare and language education such as Save the Children and SIL, respectively, with strong presence in the region somehow facilitated some degree of awareness among residents and other stakeholders. The teachers, for their part, are themselves mobilizers in raising awareness, having learned some basic idea in creating buy-in, which allows space for civil society and other organizations and government agencies to engage and find participatory mechanism for better coordination which, according to Lucas and Tolentino, is an essential part of participatory governance. Malone is clear that social acceptance and buy-in and higher awareness levels can only result in greater mobilization for program support.

Recruitment and training. The recruitment for teachers these days factors in language proficiency of an applicant and is decided at the Division level. The language factor is a national strategy or, to some, policy. Accordingly, this strategy will address the language barrier between teachers who do not speak of or lack the proficiency in the language of their pupils used as the MOI. For its part, TPES has been sending its teachers to several trainings and seminars as long as these are officially sanctioned by DepEd, the latest at the time of this research was on curriculum contextualization, which came after their training on orthography development. At the time of the research, too, the regional office was trying to harmonize the different interventions coming from both DepEd and other organizations as these have an impact on their scheduling, the teaching hours or interactions, as well as their resources. As mentioned earlier, some TPES teachers have benefitted from technical assistance such as trainings and seminars offered by NGOs such as SIL, Save the Children, and by academe-based advocacy groups, whose inputs enriched their teaching. On the other hand, the private sector, notably publishers who sell their titles to both public and private schools, have done their share for this component. A few teachers in TPES have undergone trainings on materials development and on the use of the developed materials provided by publishers for free, using the expertise of MTBMLE practitioners and experts from the academe.

Acceptable orthography. When DepEd prescribed the 19 auxilliary languages to be used as MOI for MTBMLE instruction, the orthography of most of those languages are not yet in place. For this, DepEd launched orthography development workshops in the different parts of the country. For Region XII that oversees the Division of Tacurong and TPES, the orthography workshop took place much later than the K12 trainings rolled out by DepEd in 2012. Following bottom-up principle in Bow, the orthography workshop they attended was community-based and participatory and the only role the expert who was present played was to facilitate the discussions. Like in previous components, TPES through the DepEd Tacurong Division and the DepEd Regional Office has benefitted the assistance extended by NGOs in this aspect, foremost among them the SIL, which maintains a stable of linguists and education researchers who work with DepEd and also collaborate with advocacy groups in the development of orthographies. Since DepEd has limited funding, and many of its principals in Region XII rarely tap into their school’s MOOE to avoid liquidation issues as noted by Regional Director Farnazo[8], the local government units there, the Tacurong LGU included, have stepped in and contribute to the pool of fund utilized for orthography development. This arrangement is facilitated by the local school board, which is present in all LGUs by law.

Local development of materials. A lot of criticisms heaped on both the K12 and MTBMLE are due to the lack of materials that are locally developed and historically informed of culturally embedded social, mathematical, literacy/oracy and science practices that are interesting, challenging and engaging as envisioned by Panda and Mohanti. In TPES, teachers have to make their own big books or story books fashioned out of manila paper using either crayons or colored pens for the illustrations. The local development of materials provides an opportunity for collaboration between DepEd and LGU. The LSBs in Region XII, including Tacurong, have extended funding to teachers training on the development of learning materials, including big books. While the cost of production is not covered in the funding from LSB, teachers are allowed to charge the cost to their school’s MOOE. Teachers at the TPES have produced story books they now use to teach pupils in the early grades. These big books are culture sensitive and relate local stories and lessons as demanded in the K12 Law. This is so because according to Bernando, communities have diverse socio-economic patterns that must be considered in determining levels of literacy development and in designing appropriate programs to improve literacy skill. This practice defeats the very purpose of developing local materials from the ground up.

Teacher training/preparation. As already mentioned, teachers at TPES have undergone trainings to prepare them for the implementation of MTBMLE even before the passage of RA 10533 that gave us the K12 system. But as pointed out earlier, the difference in the trainings conducted by DepEd for the K12 implementation and the ones attended by teachers offered by non-DepEd organizations have created a gap in terms of understanding of the principles and the operationalization of MTBMLE. Even within TPES, teachers have varying perspectives on MTBMLE. While some of them understood MTBMLE as promoting the first language as a bridge to learning the second and third languages, others hold the view that MTBMLE should build proficiency of the first languages first. In view of this, remedial workshops were conducted to harmonize the varying perspectives on MTBMLE in order to have what Malone describes as the right people to champion the program and its implementation. Since DepEd now tightly regulates trainings, only a handful of teachers get to attend such activities.

Availability of graded learning materials. According to Malone, graded materials are materials that are responsive as they are appropriate to the level of learners. Hence, a Grade 3 pupil is provided learning materials deemed appropriate for the third grade. Yet this is not totally the case at TPES, mainly due to the lack of learning materials in the first place. The shift in the curriculum from the old RBEC to K12 has left a gap in the inventory of learning materials whether these are developed by DepEd in-house or supplied by a privately publisher. The speed and the preparation at which K12 was implemented resulted in the lack of graded, appropriate learning materials as writers are undergoing reorientation in view of the new language-in-education policy in place. Moreover, the need for graded learning materials opened the door for Basa Pilipinas[9], a literacy project funded by USAID, to engage DepEd by providing in limited quantity big books to areas that have not developed their own in their learners’ language. As in the case with previous components, advocates and NGOs are a constant collaborator of DepEd in this particular undertaking. Experts from SIL have done the rounds in Region XII, including Tacurong, to train teachers how to make culturally sensitive big books whose content promotes understanding, tolerance, and appreciation of other cultures and whose characters are familiar to learners in the early grades whose world view revolves around family and their immediate community.

Mechanisms for coordination and monitoring and evaluation. TPES, like other schools that implement MTBMLE, uses some tools to monitor their implementation of MTBMLE. For quality monitoring and on a school level, the principal at TPES makes it a point to visit Grades 1 to 3 classrooms randomly and unannounced to check on teachers whether they apply the right strategies and approaches in MTBMLE. This monitoring is also done by the DepEd regional director himself, who has gone to the remotest school in his region for this purpose. This is done because monitoring and evaluation are central to the success of policy implementation as echoed by Malone. An important part in monitoring is the recording of best practices, or emerging practices, to be used as useful guides later on. It is through monitoring and evaluation that flaws inherent in program design may be detected. Within their school, teachers share their experiences handling variety of multilingual classrooms in a highly diverse environment. This sharing of experiences is scaled up to the regional level where teachers exchange narratives whose lessons they can bring to their own schools for sharing. Outside of its walls, there was no clear indication if TPES has an organized system for collaboration with other schools in the city as far as MTBMLE implementation is concerned.

Availability and accessibility of funding to sustain the program. Malone advocates funding for MTBMLE and for education in general, in the manner that is regular, available, and sustainable. Funding in this component should be understood as the totality of MTBMLE and includes all aspects of its implementation. As with most public schools in the country, TPES is funded by the national government on an annual basis. For SY 2014-2015, its MOOE was P1,606,000. For SY 2015-2016, its MOOE is P2,204,000 based on DepEd records. And as mentioned earlier, the school also receives some supplemental support from the local government of Tacurong through the LSB in the form of assistance to activities such as trainings and sports as well as for procurement in limited quantity of books and other instruction materials. The LSB fund, it should be noted, is a percentage derived from a special tax fund that the LGU imposed on the establishments in its jurisdiction and so by nature it is limited, hence its spending is also targeted. (At the time of the data gathering, there was no figure available).

Supportive policy environment. At the school level, the management of TPES is in full support of MTBMLE although it noted difficulty in the first two years of its implementation. However, the absence of a supportive policy from either the DepEd Regional or DepEd Division level or from the LGU did not deter teachers at TPES to express full support to MTBMLE as some of them go beyond the call of duty by learning the language of the learners in order to understand them and for them to be understood better. Two teachers in the early grades who were assigned to handle multilingual classrooms resolved to learn Maguindanaon. They are both conversant in Ilocano and Cebuano as are common among offspring of intercultural marriages in the area. In their assigned classes, there were more Maguindanao and Iranun speaking pupils than there were Hiligaynon, Ilocano or Cebuano. In about two years, the two teachers have become conversant not only in Maguindanao but also in Iranun.

C. Community Initiatives for Sustainable MTBMLE Implementation

TPES and the school management have always made it a point to link MTBMLE to school activities whenever an opportunity arises. From the LGU’s end, local festivals supported by the local government have been turned into spaces for introducing MTBMLE to a wider public so that they may be aware of the program being implemented by the DepEd in their schools. According to teachers at TPES, school events tend to promote MTBMLE almost by default judging from the colors of the banners that represent diversity in the school and the city that adorn the compound.

Classrooms especially in the early grades now have MTBMLE corners featuring pictionaries in different languages. In some classrooms, instructions in English and Filipino have translations in the local languages. The TPES school community is especially active during celebration of the International Mother Language Day, which is set every 21st of February, in honor of the language martyrs of Bangladesh and in celebration of diversity.

Guided by Kosonen’s idea of inexpensive, efficient, sustainable and community-based MTBMLE implementation with a sense of local ownership, local initiatives that include writing about local stories for children’s books with the help of local writers or writers who have links to the city were being planned at the time of the visit. Being a community-based and community-managed program, however, does not mean the MTBMLE implementation in TPES or any school community for that matter is untethered from the national support system of DepEd. Rather, the implementation should capitalize on the strengths of the locally available talents and resources for sustainable implementation.

Outside of TPES and Tacurong, there are various initiatives among HEIs in the region, as with HEIs in other regions. However, these are mostly far and in between and many do not feed into the goals and objectives in the basic education sector. For one, the HEIs have their own agenda as well as their respective missions and goals. The basic education sector, on the other hand, is dictated by the provisions of Republic Act No. 10533 and other pertinent laws and policies in the implementation of the constitutional and legal mandates and policies governing basic education.

However, research is a useful substitute of a formalized arrangement between HEIs and the DepEd at the local level as demonstrated by the experience in Region XII wherein the DepEd Regional Director encourages teachers and principals taking masteral and doctoral courses, respectively, to conduct action research to improve teaching skills and outcomes and to manage their respective schools efficiently. Research provides the space for collaboration between HEIs and DepEd. The HEIs are institutionalized structures where various stakeholders and their representatives can come together to identify, plan, and implement ideas, start up innovations, think of measures, and monitor and track their progress in improving areas of concern in both the basic and higher education program implementation. This is the drawing power of HEIs, which makes them natural go-to places as well for NGOs and international donor agencies seeking to contribute to education development.

The participation of donor agencies, non-governmental, the private sector and people’s organizations in various programs and initiatives in Philippine basic education has a long history and it is evolving. In the case of Region XII, the DepEd Regional Director was able to harmonize the different non-DepEd interventions and initiatives, mostly emanating from the said stakeholders, to avoid duplication and redundancies. Under this system, any initiative, program or activity from any of the aforementioned stakeholders has to pass through the regional office which maintains an updated education profile of the region, including an inventory of needs and resources at their disposal. While it is not perfect, the system allows for an improved collaboration among stakeholders. Gone are the days when a certain organization can just go to a school and donate a school building because, as the director claimed, every decision, initiative and intervention has been rationalized, thereby avoiding the concentration of donations in one area while depriving the rest that are in most need.

Meanwhile, the media play a rather passive role in all of these arrangements despite the sector being a major influence, resource, and channel for learning. In the research areas so far, there has never been a single formalized arrangement at their level of what could pass as an attempt at synergy between media and the key stakeholders. This could be rightly so as media need to maintain a certain level of independence. There is so much power in media that remains largely untapped to create proactive relationships to better facilitate the achievement of the shared goals and objectives in education.

 

V. Issues and Challenges

 A.  Entanglement of MTBMLE in the ‘Language War’

A little known story behind the institutionalization of MTBMLE is the struggle of its advocates against the centralist, pro-nationalist one-language perspective that not only dominates discourse but also imposes its monolithic view on language in the academia and mainstream media whose predominantly Tagalog content guised as Filipino and whose prevalence and reach suppress emerging narratives that lend voice to multiculturalism and multilingualism as counter perspectives.

As the awareness raising and mobilization for MTBMLE was gaining momentum and generating buzz online, the oppositors slowly emerged and became known. MTBMLE essentially was fighting war on three fronts. First, it was fighting against proponents of the discredited bilingual education policy that concerns only in developing fluency in English and Filipino and treats regional languages as mere bridge to the already dominant languages. Second, it had to tangle with the pro-English crowd, who had strong influence on policymaking. Recall that Rep. Gullas was unyielding of his English Only bill. Recall also that no less than former president Arroyo, now reelected representative of the 2nd District of Pampanga, filed in 15th Congress a thoroughly English Only bill mandating the use of the language from Grade 1 through college. Third, MTBMLE had to fend off attacks from some nationalist quarters that advocated a Filipino only language policy, led no less by noted artists, writers, and academics who subscribe to the monolithic centralist language planning and education.

While MTBMLE has been institutionalized through the K12, the forces against it, notably the pro-Filipino only proponents, continue to mobilize to discredit it and for the government to eventually scrap the policy. Relative to this development, in late 2014, a case was filed at the Supreme Court by a group of professors and Left-leaning student leaders and lawmakers to stop the Commission on Higher Education from implementing CMO No. 20 s. 2013 that offloads Filipino and Panitikan courses from college to the basic education curriculum as part of the K12 program. The Supreme Court has since issued a TRO on April 22, 2015.[10] There are at least three cases pending at the Supreme Court, all praying for the scrapping of K12, threatening the gains and successes of MTBMLE.

B. Lack of Materials and Funding Inaccessibility

As demonstrated in the preceding sections, the lack of materials and inaccessible funding are among the issues that affect the policy implementation of MTBMLE. These issues arose as the shift in curriculum from the old RBEC to K12 is not fully anticipated, leaving gaps in the inventory of K12-compliant materials. The transition also ushers in new policies and systems, one of which is the LRMDS which makes learning ‘paperless.’ Yet this system makes access difficult especially in areas where Internet service is poor or non-existent at all. Funding, on the other hand, is available although its access is made difficult because of the stringent COA audit system. As a result, school administrators are stymied from tapping into their school’s MOOE to draw funds to support MTBMLE-related and allowed activities to avoid added accountability and responsibility as fund utilization comes with a lot of paperwork.

C. Gaps in Policy and Practice

There are major gaps between what the policy says about funding, curriculum and learning materials development and devolution, and transition provision and the actual implementation of these provisions. There is a cost of MTBMLE implementation, among them teacher training, learning materials development and contextualization. While the law provides for funding of these activities, the DepEd and COA make it difficult for teachers to access it to finance MTBMLE-related and allowed activities. In fact, according to the regional MTBMLE coordinator for Region XII, funding for their MTBMLE activities is sourced not from MTBMLE fund pool but from IPED. As provided for in Section 5 of RA 10533, the development and approval of learning materials are devolved to the regions. Yet this is not the case in TPES as they have to defer approval to the DepEd Central because it also needs to defer to KWF as the materials involve language and orthography. In reality, the escape clauses in the IRR rendered the devolution provision optional rather than imperative. The MTBMLE transition program for grades 4 to 6 as provided for in Section 4 of Republic Act 10533 is also not being done by DepEd.

D. Policy Flaw

  1. Disjointed RA and IRR

The passage of Republic Act No. 10533 was hailed as landmark legislation for the sheer magnitude and impact the law will bear on the entire basic and higher education sector. Yet, the enthusiasm by many who supported its passage immediately died down as soon as the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) was issued because it contains inconsistencies and provisions that seem to contravene the mother law itself. This is so because policy issues are linked to complex policy design process, which is often internally orchestrated between bureaucrats and target groups and usually much less accessible to public scrutiny than many other kinds of policy deliberations (Howlett 2014). This is true in our own legislative mill where at the bicameral committee some things can happen as was the resulting discrepancy in the version of the K12 Law signed by the President from the version agreed by both chambers before the powerful bicameral committee was convened to reconcile some of its differences, which resulted in a castrated policy. Howlett cautions then that translating policy aims and objectives into practice is not as simple as it might appear, hence the need to monitor with greater vigilance in its implementation.

The first of these inconsistencies is to be found on Section 10.3 of the IRR which provides that “The production and development of locally produced teaching and learning materials shall be encouraged. The approval of these materials shall be devolved to the regional and division education unit in accordance with national policies and standards.”

The second is to be found in Rule II, No. 10.4, the introductory paragraph which states that “The curriculum shall develop proficiency in Filipino and English, provided that the first and dominant language of the learners shall serve as the fundamental language of education.” What the law provides in Section 4 is “For kindergarten and the first three (3) years of elementary education, instruction, teaching materials and assessment shall be in the regional or native language of the learners. The Department of Education (DepED) shall formulate a mother language transition program from Grade 4 to Grade 6 so that Filipino and English shall be gradually introduced as languages of instruction until such time when these two (2) languages can become the primary languages of instruction at the secondary level.”

Clearly, the provision that the curriculum shall develop proficiency in Filipino and English is absent in the main law. The distortion in the IRR not only betrays the spirit and intention of the law; it is also an indecent accommodation to lobbies that advance the cause of English and Filipino learning only, which is bilingual education, and from nationalist-democratic forces that continue to advocate a monolithic national language, part of which includes the continuing opposition by some elements identified with the Left to leave the decision to universities which MOI should be used in the teaching of General Education courses. This provision runs counter to the main purpose of MTBMLE which is to build proficiency in the first language for better transition through second language.

The deference to national policies and standards may lend sense to uniformity but this is also where and how the trouble persists for uniformity does not and will never guarantee effectiveness and success. What Republic Act 10533 does is provide general guidance, the mechanisms for specific responses of which are supposed to be embodied in the IRR. But the IRR contravenes the main law, confusing rather than clarifying the otherwise clear provisions embodied therein, diluting MTBMLE provisions into mere options rather than imperatives.

  1. Devolution and tokenism

Devolution is a form of administrative decentralization, which seeks to transfer specific decision making powers from one level of government to another (Gregersen et al). In the Philippine context, devolution is commonly understood as the transfer of specific decision making powers from the central government to local government units or to its sub-national agencies. Yet devolution remains less understood, largely misapplied if not misappropriated.

As it exists today, the Department of Education is a top-down, heavily centralized service delivery agency with the decision-making powers mostly emanating from the central office. For certain functions and purposes, however, DepEd’s regional and division level units are vested by Republic Act 10533 certain decision making powers, including the production and development of locally produced teaching materials and the power to approve them for usage. In real practice, though, this power is effectively curtailed by a proviso on deferring final approval from national government agencies such as the KWF for matters involving orthography, which is crucial for materials development, teachers training, and teaching.

MTBMLE is rested on diversity and multiculturalism defined by specificity in and of contexts such that no school community system is the same as the other; that languages and cultures are distinctly unique or uniquely distinct from one another. Therefore, the policy framework that undergirds successful program implementation should be location-specific and culture-sensitive, as outlined in Sections 4 and 5 (c), (d), (f) and (h) of RA 10533, a univocal recognition that the only way to effect meaningful governance in education is by decentralization. And the only way for DepEd to effectively deliver on its mandate is by devolving not just functions but authority for decision making and financial resources to fulfill such mandates. The rationale of the Local Government Code of 1991 is also decentralization where significant powers and functions concentrated in the central government are devolved in recognition that those on the frontlines know better the realities on the ground.

When a government devolves functions, it also transfers authority for decision-making, finance, and management to local government units or sub-national units of central agencies vested with proportional power and corporate status. In devolved systems, agencies with devolved powers have clear boundaries over which they exercise authority and within which they perform functions (Gregersen et al 2004). Yet the case on orthography and materials development and approval shows the contrary, except for the funding provision that the study noted the teachers having difficulty accessing.

Hence, the observation that decentralization is often decided top-down and is a strategy for increasing the central government agency’s capacity to achieve proposed goals and objectives (Bresser-Pereira 2004) warrants deeper reflection if only to account for reform in introducing the K12 system, whose language-in-education policy provisions may suffer the same fate as countless other laws and provisions do as being mere options rather than imperatives. Devolution is usually a response to demands for more local or regional autonomy to which government officials in the central government reluctantly accede (Bresser Pereira 2004). Power sharing, in effect, is easier on paper than when it is operationalized.

E. Ambiguous Stakeholder Synergies and Relationships of Institutions Involved

The role of each agency, organization or institution involved directly or indirectly in the implementation of MTBMLE has to be spelled out clearly. The rules of engagement should be set in an unambiguous language to avoid interference in the processes and procedures ensure sustainable implementation of the program.

While there are numerous stakeholders and partners ready to collaborate, a clear system that harmonizes the otherwise disjointed initiatives is very much needed as in a consortium (Harris 1981) where each stakeholder’s strengths are identified so they are assigned a role or function that best utilizes them. This is to minimize if not totally stamp out redundancies which impact the resources whether coming from government or private coffers

.

VI. Collabotrative MTBMLE Governance: Prospects and Possibilities

While the passage of Republic Act 10533 signaled the overhaul of the entire Philippine education system, much remains to be seen if the implementation of MTBMLE as its major component that articulates the language-in-education policy of the Philippine basic education is in keeping with the theories and assumptions and the legal provisions that undergirds a living multilingual education policy. Apart from understanding how and where MTBMLE stands in the policy ecosystem, it is imperative to ensure its sustainability. Key to its sustainability, more than mere survival, may lie in how it is managed across time and administrations wherein constantly shifting priorities are a recipe for neglect. The key may just lie in its governance.

The United Nations Development Program provides a working definition of governance as involving complex mechanisms, processes, relationships and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their rights and obligations and mediate their differences (UNDP 2004). While MTBMLE is just one component of the K12 program, its implementation needs to be managed as it involves a web of complex relationships and partnerships among stakeholders, as well as market and other forces within the policy ecosystem. In view of this complexity, the centralized, hierarchical policy regime may no longer be suitable because its inherent rigidities prevent a kind of arrangement where public agencies directly engage with non-state stakeholders in a collective decision making process that is formal, consensus-oriented and deliberative (emphasis mine) for the purpose of making or implementing public policy or in managing public programs and projects (Ansell and Gash 2008). Note that in hierarchical systems, the leadership is more concerned with focusing on scheduling, assigning, and coordinating work. In collaborative contexts, the leadership spends more time motivating people, creating trust among them, treating others as equals, and maintaining a close-knit group (Silvia 2011).

Moreover, participatory governance—synonymous to collaborative governance—is a central theme in policies and programs administration in post-centralist regimes, resulting from dynamic interactions between government, business, and civil society organizations in the formulation of state policies, implementation of government programs, projects and activities, and in ensuring government transparency, accountability and citizen’s participation (Lucas and Tolentino 2006). The key concept here is ‘dynamic interaction’ which means anything or everything but static, which aptly describes the hierarchical structure of DepEd and the vertical implementation of its policies across its units. Participation to DepEd policy or program implementation, including MTBMLE, remains largely restrictive because the terms of engagement is mostly dictated by DepEd and not a product of a negotiated, consensus-derived terms that are acceptable to most, if not all, stakeholders involved. This is something that is clear as far as DepEd’s collaboration with stakeholders go, based on feedbacks from key stakeholders who had difficulty navigating such restrictive relationship. As pointed out in the preceding section, there remain ambiguities in the synergies of stakeholders in the different phases or components of MTBMLE implementation not because the terms are not clear but more so because the roles that each stakeholder supposedly play are not clarified. This point is of primary importance because sustainable policy implementation exacts some serious accountability on any or all of the stakeholders involved and therefore their roles and functions should be very clear. While the full implementation of MTBMLE in view of RA 10533 demands certain degree or level of flexibility to optimize engagement with key stakeholders, there lies accountability at the core and in the course of its administration. What is more suitable then to MTBMLE governance in the long term is a kind that engages people constructively across the boundary of public agencies, levels of government, and public, private and civic spheres to carry out a public purpose that could not be accomplished otherwise (Emerson, Nabatchi and Balogh 2011).

Collaborative governance, to be meaningful and effective according to Margerum, must be attended with planning based on a two-way communication flow between the public and the planning agency, emphasizing communicative and interactive nature of planning practice achieved through collaboration (Margerum 2002). As established in the preceding sections, part of the issues, difficulties and challenges attendant to the implementation of MTBMLE are traced to the flaw in the policy itself, such as the disjointed Section 4 of RA 10533 and Rule II, No. 10.4 of its IRR on the retention of bilingualism and Section 5 (h) of the same law and Section 10.3 of the same IRR on devolution in the production and approval of learning materials at the regional or division level. In a collaborative context, stakeholders can work on initiatives in the interim while preparing to launch a drive to amend and correct the flaw in the policy. This is so because as Margerum explains, the three phases in collaborative planning—the problem setting, the direction setting phase, and the implementation phase—provide stakeholders the space and time to think of all the possible scenarios that may arise in the course of policy implementation.

To guide further theorizing in understanding the complexity of issues attendant to MTBMLE policy implementation, a policy ecosystems framework is proposed below. All the elements in the research are contained in the framework: the underlying theories and assumptions, the key policy provisions, and the operationalization and confluence of both.

PowerPoint Presentation

Figure 2. The MTBMLE Ecosystem

            At the micro level, which is the school community, oftentimes referred to in this paper as the community of practice or COP, MTBMLE practices are documented from the case of TPES. These practices have a basis. And so we look at either the policies that govern or the theories that inform them. That’s one way of looking at the framework. Another way is to look at the situation from the side of policy. Is the policy supportive of the practices and somehow agree with the theories? Yet another way to look at the situation is from the side of theory. Does theory support the practice and inform policy? Just a word of caution in analyzing: the directions at which the arrow point are the ways to look at the situation which goes, as the illustration clearly shows, both ways.

Therefore, the practices are what the research is able to document in the school community, what the theory informs and what the policy prescribes. The policies, on the other hand, are what the theories inform and what the school communities need or demand. The theories, meanwhile, are drawn from observing the practices and analyzing the policies. In their respective spheres, theories, policies and practices are influenced, shaped, informed, guided, and validated by each other. Beyond their spheres, theories, policies are practices are also influenced, shaped, informed, guided, and validated by macro system values, which include but not limited to goals (local, regional, global), market and other forces, and the different obligations and conditionalities imposed on the spheres of policies, practices and theories .

The institutionalization of MTBMLE benefits from the confluence of positive results of community practices in many parts of the Philippines and elsewhere in the world and the common recognition at the regional and global front that language matters in education, that language rights is human rights and that learning is more meaningful when it is conducted in the language that is accessible to the learner (Kosonen 2005). This recognition partly defines the shared national, regional and global goals in education today. But the business of educating is not confined to goals alone. It is also dependent on the resources to finance programs to achieve such goals and the sources that provide them. This is how and where donor agencies and multilateral institutions come in, bringing with them a laundry list of conditionalities that come with every dollar granted to governments that implement education reforms, the K12 being one of them which is tied to the World Bank and the 4Ps, the government’s flagship social protection program. The K12 is a policy articulation that attempts to balance internal needs and challenges and external demands and obligations seen by some to be unfavorable and disadvantageous to public interest. But then again, it is too early to cast judgment on the cost and benefit of the program. Let the concern be refocused then on the ability and preparedness of the institutions tasked with managing the complex mechanisms, processes, and relationships involved in the MTBMLE policy implementation within RA 10533. As established earlier and as noted in this research, at the micro level, there are gaps and challenges in MTBMLE implementation that reveal flaws in the policy itself. These gaps, challenges and flaws need urgent attention. At the macro level, there are expressed concerns on the new global direction spelled out in the Sustainable Development Goals such that some targets and indicators therein actually lack context when broken down and brought to the school community level.

Finally, let the issues and challenges in the implementation and the flaws in the policy serve notice to DepEd and its key partners that these are clear and serious vulnerabilities that will persist until they are fully addressed. The sustained opposition to K12 and MTBMLE shows lack of social acceptance that is associated with weak social mobilization to drum up full support to the policy. As we transition into the next leadership, the certainty of the policy hangs in the balance because what has been highlighted are its infirmities and not the strengths and outcomes that lend rationale and argument for its continuity.

There is also the specter of the policy being scrapped by the next administration because of the bad press it is getting as the issues of displacement in the teaching force across levels and the common perception of DepEd’s unpreparedness to implement the much-maligned policy have not been fully addressed. Much is at stake for education as the sitting government has invested a lot of public funds as well as social and political capital to bring about the reforms in the basic education sector. It is therefore an imperative for the academe in partnership with key stakeholders to continuously examine the policies, practices, and theories that underpin government’s education programs. At the same time, it is an imperative for everyone to imagine alternatives and possibilities other than the system currently in place.

 

 

 

 

References

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Bow, C (2012). Community-based orthography development in four Western Zambian languages. Writing Systems Research, 2012. Routledge. Taylor and Francis

CHED Memorandum Order No. 59 s. 1996

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Commonwealth Act No. 184

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DECS Order No. 81 s. of 1987

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DepEd Order No. 74 s. 2009, Institutionalizing Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MLE)

DepEd Order No. 54 s. 2009

DepEd Order No. 16 s. 2012. Specifies the first 12 auxilliary languages to be used as MOI in MTBMLE. These are Tagalog, Kapampangan, Pangasinense, Iloko, Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Tausug, Maguindanaoan, Maranao, Chabacano

DepEd Order No. 28 s. 2013. Provides for seven additional auxiliary languages to be used as MOI in MTBMLE. These are Ibanag, Ivatan, Sambal, Aklanon, Kinaray-a, Yakan, and Surigaonon

Dodge, Jennifer (2014). Civil society organizations and deliberative policy making: interpreting environmental controversies in the deliberative system. Policy Sci, 47: 161-185.

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Executive Order No. 134 s. 1937

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Panda, M & Mohanti, A (2009). Language Matters, so does Culture Beyond the Rhetoric of Culture in Multilingual Education. Social Justice through Multilingual Education. Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Robert Phillipson, Ajit Mohanty, Minati Panda (eds) Multilingual Matters

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Republic Act 7160, The Local Government Code of 1991

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http://www.stepupph.org

[1] See http://opinion.inquirer.net/61025/castrated-mtb-mle.

[2] Interview with Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo at the sidelines of the 1st Philippine Conference-Workshop on Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education, February 18-20, 2010, Cagayan de Oro City.

[3] The Translators Association of the Philippines (TAP) is one of the private organizations that lent support to DepEd in this initiative, together with Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), and the university-based advocacy group, Talaytayan MLE Consortium. Leaders of the aforementioned organizations are among the implementers of the research from which this papers draws data from.

[4] From their website http://www.teachforthephilippines.org/ and from testimonies of former and current volunteer teachers.

[5] Various clubs of the The Rotary Club in Metro Manila have embarked on English proficiency training, financing the program out of members’ contributions.

[6] See http://pbed.ph/content/1000-teachers-program.

[7] Based on interviews with Dir. Allan Farnazo of DepEd RXII, who has since been assigned to DepEd RX, and Dr. Omar Obas, Schools Division Superintendent for the Cotabato Province Division, conducted between August 2015 and October 2015.

[8] Dir. Farnazo, in a gathering of supervisors and principals in Region XII in August 2015, called on the principals to tap into their school’s MOOE for activities related to materials development and training. Failure to do so, he warned, will result into disincentive and will be reflected in their performance assessment. He maintains the view that not tapping into the MOOE for important supplemental expense is a form of dodging responsibility and accountability.

[9] Information on the project can be accessed at https://www.usaid.gov/philippines/education/basa-pilipinas.

[10] See http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/694452/multi-sectoral-group-bares-discrepancies-in-k-to-12-law

At odds with Bongbong Marcos

They say the issue with Marcos Jr. is not Martial Law. Kasi nga naman, mahigit  40 years na daw yon. Tapos na daw yon. Golden years pa nga ng Pilipinas yon. Besides, Marcos Jr. is an embodiment of the failed Edsa Revolution, and so on.

The real issue with Marcos Jr. is his denial of the atrocities of Martial Law that his father ordered and presided over, thanks to the legal justification by his brilliant advisor Juan Ponce Enrile, who has revised himself so many times I’ve lost count already. Filipinos are naturally gifted with semantic ability minus the formal, rigid philosophical training. We love splitting hairs even. We don’t want to call Marcos Jr. a liar. He is a denier, period. And this is worst.

The young Bongbong Marcos during his days in Oxford.

On the failed Edsa Revolution, people thought that their share in nation building ended after the removal of Ferdinand Sr from Malacanang. No, sir, the Marcoses merely relocated to a more conducive environment that allowed them the privilege of untouchability of the long (and now shortened) reach of the law. People sleep for 33 years, about the same productive years of their beloved Christian triune God Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ!

On their 34th year, people woke up to mini-Marcoses, mini dictatorships sprouting like mushrooms after a soothing midday rain.

Like a malevolent virus, the Marcos dynasty has mutated. The once controlled ‘oligarchy’ has been unleashed, this time more virulent. And where were we in all of these? We’re busy remaking patronage, making beeline to this and that congressman. The others go on with their own interest, unmindful and uncaring for why should they be expected to contribute more when they already had marched along Edsa, gave flowers and sandwiches to rebellious officers, and pounded clenched fists in Manila’s polluted air.

To many of these people, democracy is a frozen delight, like your favorite Carmen’s artisanal ice cream (for the discerning class, sorry). Well, I have a bad news for them, as if they haven’t heard it yet: your brand of democracy died in 1986 the moment you believe you’re done with your share in making it work not only for you but for the rest of the Filipinos, including those who call Ayala Alabang home.

So, if you are voting for Marcos Jr. because your dumb textbooks did not inform you that the effective suspension of human rights in those years resulted in thousands of innocent civilian deaths, you are by no means less guilty for not seeking a more truthful account because you are dazzled by his accomplishments in Ilocos Norte, yes, that beautiful province that’s beautified even more to mask the ugly part of its history written by one of its own.

Marcos Jr. needs redemption and to him it was as it is to serve the public, minus the recognition of his own culpability. Own culpability? Miriam–yes, that once brilliant lady whose tandem with Marcos Jr. defies logic-says that the sins of the father cannot be inherited by the son. She is right. But the plunder of the father can be. It is. I now believe that Marcos Jr. has deep personal reason why he could not–not he did not–pursue his Philosophy, Politics, and Economics degree studies in Oxford: it is impossible to philosophize the unphilosophical; the unjust is never justifiable. That was probably the only remaining healthy cells in Marcos Jr at that time. Unfortunately, it is now consumed by “cancer cells that eats everything around it.” (That phrase is my Miriam Santiago, his running mate.)

It is tragic enough that people were denied access to history as it unfolded. But it is beyond humanity that many are comforted by their own, personal version of pragmatism over shared contempt for injustice Marcos-style.

It’s a stupid idea to send these people back to school; it is even costlier to lobotomize them. The most convenient way is to quit, go to some faraway place where you hear none of them chantimg BBM! BBM! BBM! But unlike many of them, we’re not hopeless. . . hopeless in adoration and adulation of the demigods and demagogues who dominate our political life as a nation of half-gullible.

So, let’s continue the memory-making with the young, the hopeful, those whose minds are open to criticism, to dialogue, to the theses and anti-theses and the eventual syntheses in our desire to finally break that bond of ignorance that imprisons this generation and the generation before us.

There is much hope around. I see it daily at a school near our place where I can hear teachers teaching inconvenient truth to sixth graders of the evils of Martial Law.

Published here: http://www.rappler.com/views/imho/132125-odds-bongbong-marcos

Will candidates govern as they campaign?

In American presidential campaigns, the voters are afforded the window from which they can peer through the configuration and the direction of an administration elected to serve in the next four to eight years. On our shores, however, we continue to struggle to make sense of the tone and character of governance by the next administration. Due to the absence of established and disciplined political parties accountable to voters and the public, what we are witnessing in the campaigns are evolving platforms delivered in piecemeal fashion.

Nevertheless, the bruising campaign in the last 60 days may have offered some insights into how each of the candidates will likely govern when elected to administer our state affairs.

Senator Poe’s campaign’s less-aggressive-more-positive tact is benefiting her and the recent opinion polls that place her on top spot affirm this approach. Although her campaign wobbles occasionally on some issues, it remains largely on-the-message. Her avoidance of personal attacks is reminiscent of the campaign similarly and consciously launched by then presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro in the 2010 presidential election.

Despite the positive tone, though, the campaign of Grace Poe is fair game to criticism. Her platform and stance is neither here nor there. And while her camp has reasons for maintaining calculated ambiguity, the absence of a clear demarcation line that differentiates her from either Mr. Roxas or Vice President Binay is a fodder of her being a Malacanang stooge.

Notable in the race, too, is the tenacity of the Roxas campaign in explaining with difficulty why building on, improving, and expanding the gains of the second Aquino administration is the most realistic formula for the next six years. The difficulty is partly due to perceptions of incompetence among appointees in the administration who failed to deliver their mandates, putting the Roxas campaign on the defensive. As it stands today, no amount of reasoning by the administration can sway public perception against Daang Matuwid. Yet the Roxas campaign plods on as the opportunity of making people understand how the government can best respond to their needs is as important a goal of getting the LP standard bearer elected to serve them.

Senator Miriam Santiago’s campaign, on the other hand, is largely symbolic with no manifest intent of winning as her reliance on virtual campaign has not moved her rating beyond 3% in the more credible polls. From a logistical perspective, her army of Facebook volunteers is unlikely to deliver the winning votes despite her topping countless preference surveys in schools because our brand of politics, observes Prof. Henry E. Brady, pays premium to pounding flesh and demands a lot of energetic interactions between the representative and the represented, a reality that Vice President Binay is aware of and utilizes to his great advantage.

Gone also are the battalions of volunteers who pooled their resources to keep her campaign afloat. Then there is that perennial question of winnability, of which Sen. Santiago’s may have gone past its shelf life at this point in our politics as being knowledgeable in governance and law has become an option rather than an imperative for a good leader. Winnability aside, the rest of the elements are no longer there. Her tandem with Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in the eyes of many of her supporters, is Miriam’s own reductio ad absurdum.

Meanwhile, the Vice President’s campaign is trying to fill in the crevices and cracks left open by the failings of the administration. Like the proverbial “madiskarte” that he is known for, Binay’s masterful rework of the 4Ps, the administration’s flagship social protection program, yields him the 5Ps without breaking a sweat! But if there is one thing remarkable in the vice president’s campaign, it is that ability to poke at emotions of people who really deliver the votes. Like an old-timer in the jungle, Binay’s campaign knows where and how to source food without making the necessary trip to the lowland. After all, he’s a Boy Scout, whatever that means.

Finally, Mayor Duterte’s electrified campaign, fueled by a mixture of fanatical enthusiasm and protest against the status quo, has drawn thousands to his message of change premised not on a solid plan but solely on his vow to end criminality and the drug menace in six months and his prescription of federalism as a cure to the ills in government. But his parochial views on climate change and telecoms sector reform, among a host of national and global issues, are lamentably inoperable in a complex policy ecosystem that requires thinking beyond centralist planning that Duterte has become accustomed to following decades of ruling Davao City without opposition. There is also that gleaming contradiction drawn from his prescription of federalizing the Philippines in the face of untamed corporate greed that has the entire country in its fangs. The assumption goes that to break up a monopoly, it is necessary to divide its stronghold. Yet the American experience is an unfailing example of how a federal state can be drowned by deregulation and free enterprise. So if it’s not in the form of government, it must be in its strength.

With days into the homestretch, we may not have enough time to observe the campaigns of the five presidential candidates to get more from them. But there is an ample opportunity to reflect on the shared notion that the presidency is not just about brutish passion, charisma, and endless vulgarity. The presidency is a transforming leadership that works to restore trust in our institutions more than belief in our elected representatives to take care of us in their absence or death. It is rewarded only to someone who has the humility to exercise the tremendous powers of the office to facilitate and not dictate in the shaping of our national agenda and our collective aspirations. The presidential candidates owe it to the Filipino people to make the reassurance that this election and the presidency is all about us–the governed. It is never about them.

Published here: http://www.rappler.com/views/imho/128691-candidates-campaign-preview-governance

The presidential business of (mis)educating Filipinos

Like any voter looking for answers to the most pressing issues of the day, I sat in front of our television for ninety minutes, anticipating a lively exchange among presidential candidates for the May polls. I expected that apart from saying something civil about each other’s conduct, performance, and platform of government, the candidates would be more straightforward on issues like corruption, indecisiveness, incompetence, inexperience, and human rights violations linked to each one of them. But as it turned out, I watched with a wrong set of expectations. What transpired was a modified quiz bee that talked a little bit about what can be expected of the candidates when elected. I would learn later that the ‘debate’ was patterned after the Republican debates in the United States. “No wonder it was lousy,” said Rain, our seven year old boy, upon learning about the format.

I was hoping that a question on education would be among the first to be thrown in, especially so that the first leg of the debate took place in Mindanao where, based on Philippine Statistics Authority’s records, three of its regions—ARMM, Socsargen, and Davao—registered consistently the highest combined dropout rate among elementary and high school students since 2007. The ARMM’s 14 percent, Socsargen’s 12.3 percent, and Davao’s 12.2 are in fact higher than the national dropout rate of 10 percent. I understand how and why the framing of the debate highlights the precarious peace situation in Mindanao, but it is utterly disappointing that the discourse on education is conveniently sidelined in favor of soundbites, none of which came out blazingly from either one of the candidates. Debates over issues on education would have provided the lens from which the audience could view and discern the compelling and the competing narratives that tend to confuse rather than enlighten people on the so-called Mindanao issue.\

Six years ago at an education conference I attended at the Capitol University, where the first leg of the presidential debate was held, delegates from all over the world came to participate in a variety of thematic sessions designed along the overarching question on how to make education truly inclusive and for all. Against the backdrop of sinking budgets in education in the Philippines and elsewhere at that time, we confronted questions such as on how our respective governments and institutions both public and private are responding to the urgency of meeting the Millennium Development Goals as well as the Education for All agenda five years from then, in 2015. Today is February 2016, a good two months after the deadline lapsed. To the best of my recollection, we have not fully achieved our own national targets. As you are reading this piece, there are 124 million out of school youth and 150 million children between the age of five and 14 have been forced to enter into the labor force in different parts of the world.

I reckon that in 2010 we were at the crossroads, uncertain of where the next leadership will lead us but constant in our faith and commitment as to where our common advocacy in education should be headed. On Sunday, the same realization dawned upon me as I was watching the debate where aspiring presidential candidates tried but failed to impress us with their mediocre understanding of things that really matter to us, voters or not. Again, they say, it’s the format.

If people are keenly aware, we are in transition from the current administration to the next. To some, this is no big deal as this happens every six years. However, there is always a danger in belittling the importance of such period. Isn’t it we thought that when the Marcoses fled, and with Mrs. Aquino at the helm of our newly-restored democracy in transition, everything would be fine? Of course, we inaugurated the 1987 Constitution with the accompanying hope that that sacred document would prevent the rise of a new dictator. True enough, we have not seen a Marcos 2.0. But what we have in our midst are the mini Marcoses, mini-dictatorships that deformed our institutions and political system. Thankfully, a fitting question about these finally popped up in the debate between the vice president and Senator Miriam Santiago. It was about political dynasties, of which the vice president’s family belongs and even proud of it and for which issue Sen. Santiago wanted to address by proposing an enabling law on the Constitutional prohibition of political dynasties. But as fate would have it, hers and the various anti-dynasty measures filed in both houses of Congress have not seen the light of day for why would dynastic members of Congress legislate their eventual extinction.

We have come to accept the fact that the transition from dictatorship to democracy was a double edged-sword. While we shun centralist decision-making, we installed replicas of authoritarianism in many parts of the county. What facilitated this anomaly, if not abhorrent regression, is the failure of our education system to produce the kind of citizens that are not only conscious of attempts at revisionism but are ready and committed to resist the return of authoritarianism in its many guises. While we have produced vast amounts of knowledge and information in the last thirty years, unfortunately these were not enough to equip us with wisdom, foresight, and critical thinking that would have guided us in those crucial transitions that many of us care less for their seeming ordinariness.

There is another transition across the Pacific, as the Americans will go to polls in November. Whether we like it or not, the results of their election not only will shake the Washington establishment; they send tremors across the Pacific, the Atlantic, and virtually all parts of the known universe as Washington dominates the shaping of the global agenda on education and development and the associated funding and resource mobilization. In the face of these transitions, where do we stand? What needs to be done?

The answers to questions beyond shortfalls in the Millennium Development Goals, for one, could not wait until the second leg of the debate moves to Cebu City, or until someone fully explains to the candidates why we are moving to Sustainable Development Goals 2030. I believe the public has waited long enough that any delay in the answer to their questions would be viewed as an evasion if not an outright refusal to address those issues. Which reminds me of the word the vice president loves to describe his leadership style: decisive. When the Senate summoned him to finally air his side on allegations of corruption against him and several members of his family, he suddenly found the courage to be indecisive for reasons only Jejomar Binay Sr. knows.

It would have been beneficial if the presidential candidates were asked on our transitioning from the MDGs to SDG 2030 not just because it is the global buzzword of the moment but precisely to probe deeper into how much thinking they put into their campaigns as far as building and aligning, or deviating even for more context, their education agenda to the national, regional, and global goals in education. It is easy to write lines upon lines of a detailed platform of government with emphasis on issues closer to a candidate’s heart. But until they demonstrate clearly how they are going to do it and where they will get the money for it, it is best to take their statements as promises, as Sen. Santiago loves to call it.

It also escapes me why despite the education sector getting the highest budget for 2016 the debates or its organizers did not find education something worthy of top billing. There is a wealth of discussions around education themes, especially that the Aquino administration is now in the final stages of full K-12 implementation with the rollout of senior high school.

We have seen a steady rise in the budget allocation to education, which should be construed, and rightly so, as a testament to our commitment to invest in the future of our children. This allocation is in sync with the government’s social protection program that keeps school-age children rightfully where they belong—in school, or in alternative arrangements where meaningful instruction can be delivered to them. The synergy in these mechanisms produce some outcomes, the interpretations of which may vary in range from frustrating, interesting, and  encouraging, depending on which way you look at it. For these alone, the candidates would have had enough for two hours’ worth of debate. (I shall not burden readers with statistics as they can easily refer to official and alternative sources).

The reform initiatives in the basic education sector undertaken in cognizance of the MDGs and underpinned by inclusion are worth the candidates’ attention, whether they affirm or discredit them. For one, there are gaps that need narrowing. There remains a lot of work in terms of improving targeting to reach out more marginalized families, sustaining funding and mobilization of resources, and crafting of data-driven and equity-based policies to achieve a truly universal access to education for every learner. But there is no denying we have done well our part in our bold attempts at making education inclusive. Whether what we have done is inclusive enough and sustainable is another story altogether. That would have been the point for candidates to make.

When they gather in Cebu for the second leg of the debate, the presidential candidates, courtesy of their advisers, may have already mastered their ninety-seconders to mesmerize their audience once more into buying their promises. Yet the presidency is more than mastery and preparedness as some presidential advisers and academics wanted to make it appear to prop up their favored candidate’s abundance or lack of it. We have elected presidents who were not only reluctant but also largely unprepared. The same can be said of President Aquino, who despite being unprepared is able to accomplish something in his singular vision premised on anti-corruption. The presidency, for all its perceived power and sophistication of office, is also about arranging priorities, or rearranging them when necessary, and aligning all forces within its power to move towards their achievement. The arranging and rearranging of priorities, the presidential candidates must be warned, demands defending and building on the gains of the past administration and never diminishing them that only those who fully understand what inclusive and sustainable mean to governance and education will do at all cost.

 

In search of a ‘losing’ candidate

With less than 50 days before election day, the camps of the 5 presidential candidates are now on overdrive. And if the second presidential debate in Cebu City was any measure, it is easy to surmise who the losers and the gainers were.

However, we don’t settle for the easy stuff of referencing post-debate online polls to assign winning and losing bets, because what’s at stake is not only our personal preferences but the nation’s fate as well in the next 6 years. It is in this light that we need to disturb our collective mind with both the basic and complex questions that ought to confront not just every voter but more appropriately, the 5 presidential candidates who have offered to lead us. But lead us where?

Except perhaps for one, the 4 presidential candidates have drafts of what read and sound like a platform of government ready for the prying public to go over, section by section. These are important documents in the campaign for they inform voters on the kind of administration they can expect from a candidate.

Some camps are able to attract the best legal minds into their core team of campaign advisors, including some of the country’s top economists, whose thinking is reflected in those drafts. Other camps are not as lucky, populated by people perceived by the public as recycled has-beens who have been around too long but have never added value in political discourse and in actual governance.

Painful truth

While having the right team lends credibility to a campaign, the painful truth remains: the ability to govern, to lead, first and foremost, is a direct function of the winning candidate.

Traditionally, candidates surround themselves with the best expert advisers, yet the decision to act on their advice rests solely with the candidate. This is the simpler way of explaining what leadership is and should be. This is true in the presidency, or any important office for that matter.

While in this hypothetical instance, the role of advisors is underscored, if not overly emphasized in the case of amateur candidates, the president’s ability to decide is more critical. During the campaign, a candidate can flip-flop on important issues in as many times as fuel prices fluctuate. But after the winner is proclaimed, there is no more room for high school-type experiments on decision-making – not when we decide to remove constitutional barriers to attract more foreign investments, and certainly not when our sovereignty is being challenged by a regional giant.

Before we cast our sacred vote for any of them, there is an urgent need to probe further and deeper into each of the candidate’s innate abilities beyond acquired skills, foresight beyond sloganeering, vision beyond verbosity, and spontaneous responses and unguarded actuations beyond staged affection and token charity.

These qualities are equally important, if not supremely important, than the candidates’ track record and experience in previous positions for it is more convenient to pander to what is pragmatic and doable than to pursue a course of action that is morally discernible and sustainable.

The demands above are difficult, if not entirely impossible, for most of the candidates to meet. For some, meeting these would mean losing; most of them would rather play to the gallery than tell people they came to listen to them with the wrong expectation. (Lest we forget, we, as voters, are confronted with the following dilemma: If my candidate wins, can she or he govern? If my candidate can govern, can she or he win?)

Convenient strategy

Winning should not be so difficult especially for candidates who consistently lead in opinion polls and who have a better grasp of the pulse on the ground. But governing is. The “win first, govern later” is just a convenient strategy for political managers who preside the rise or demise of their principals’ candidacy and who get paid regardless of the result. We know the strategy is not necessarily the right one; not even a good one.

Campaigns and elections are not about strategists, although they or the strategies they employ have a bearing on the success or failure of their candidate. It’s about the candidate and her or his party, or lack of it, and what they can all bring to enlighten political discourse and to push for broader reforms when they assume power.

When then Vice President Joseph Estrada launched his presidential bid in 1997, the fate of his presidency and the nation’s as well was already sealed – at least for the duration of his term, which was interrupted, thankfully, by the people disillusioned by his misrule.

To Mr Estrada, it was all about winning everyone – the masses, his movie fans, local political kingpins, religious organizations, and some say even the so-called Binondo central bank that allegedly financed partly his bid. His campaign, bearing the singular message,”Erap para sa mahirap (Erap for the poor),” so endeared him to voters they sent him to Malacañang with more than 10 million votes. It was winning at all cost.

‘Winning is about losing’

The winning part, many forget or refuse to acknowledge, should start way before favorable opinion polls and hefty campaign contributions come trickling in; the winning is to be found in the clear language and agreement on what the candidate and the voter can work on together and be held accountable for later on.

Winning is not derived on promises, nearly all of which are written in thin air. Nor is winning guaranteed by that piece of paper filled with sophisticated language in climate change adaptation and renewable energy generation, among other beautifully sounding programs and strategies but which leaves everyone perplexed as to how these will be funded.

Winning is about losing the accustomed comfort of being praised all the time for brilliance, composure, elegance, humility, simplicity, bravery, and preparedness in exchange for taking all the manure for being slow but tenacious in sticking to what is right and good for everyone.

In the Cebu leg of the debates, Mayor Duterte forcefully told the audience that anyone seeking to be president should be willing to kill and get killed; otherwise, she or he is not up to the office. In fact, the good mayor is adamant about ending crimes and the drug menace within the first 6 months of his presidency. But anyone seeking to be president should also be willing to lose the claim that long experience in governance is enough to bring the country to where it should be headed, as well as the illusion that youthfulness and inexperience bring energy and new perspective to managing the affairs of the state.

Unless we all agree that the Philippines is one humongous barangay located somewhere in the South China Sea, then everyone can start running and winning the position of the president at all cost. Unfortunately, the presidency is greater than what is demanded of it.

 

Link to Rappler: http://www.rappler.com/views/imho/127052-search-losing-candidate-philippine-elections 

Language-in-education policy: Gaps and challenges in the mother tongue based multilingual education (MTBMLE) implementation in Philippines basic education

 

Introduction

This paper shall discuss the gaps and challenges in the policy implementation of the mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTBMLE) as reflective of the language-in-education policy in Philippine basic education.

This paper shall use Susan Malone’s framework in the assessment and analysis in the hope of offering a better understanding of the issues and demands pertinent to policy implementation of strong MTBMLE. As a complement, Jessica Ball’s Spheres of Influence framework shall be taken briefly.

The paper shall trace the evolution of the language-in-education policy in the Philippines. However, its focus of discussion is the current iteration of the policy as embodied in existing laws and instrumentalities that serve as the legal and operational framework for its implementation. These policies include pertinent provisions in the 1987 Constitution, Republic Act 10533 and its implementing rules and regulations, and the Department of Education Order No. 74 s. 2009. It must be stressed that aside from national policies, the Philippines’ language-in-education policy is also cognizant of the various international conventions, standards and practices that influence and dictate directly or indirectly the form and substance and the course and outcomes of our education programs, chief among these the 1990 UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child (Articles 28 and 30).

Finally, this paper hopes to offer insights on the dynamics and synergies involved as well as the context of the language-in-education policy that is currently in place in terms of how it got to where it is right now and what are the prospects and possibilities moving forward.

The Evolution of Language in Education Policy

The Philippines’ language-in-education policy has evolved with the structures of the state and its institutions over a long period of time. By and large, the policy in place has always been reflective of the desire of the government or administration in power and embodied in its fundamental law:  the Constitution. During the Spanish colonial period, our school system had Spanish as the official medium of instruction. The use of Spanish language, being the language of the colonizer, is extended to civil service and business. During the short-lived first Philippine Republic, the 1899 Malolos Constitution, interestingly, made Spanish still compulsory in public and judicial affairs. During the American period, English replaced Spanish as the official State language and as the language used in commerce and trade. Eventually, the post-war establishment of the Philippine Republic precipitated also a shift in policies—foremost among them the language-in-education policy. But as early as the Commonwealth period, former president Manuel L. Quezon had already envisioned a national language based on Tagalog, the language of his region and his mother tongue. Article XIII, Section 3 of the 1935 Constitution provides:

“The National Assembly shall take steps toward the development and adoption of a common national language based on one of the existing native languages. Until otherwise provided by law, English and Spanish shall continue as official languages.”

In response, the First National Assembly approved in November 13, 1936 Commonwealth Act No. 184, mandating the creation of the National Language Institute. The goal of the Institute was to recommend one of the existing native languages to be used as the basis for a national language. Not long after, in December 30, 1937, President Quezon signed Executive Order No. 134 s. 1937 proclaiming the national language of the Philippines based on Tagalog language as recommended by the members of the National Language Institute. The said executive order would precipitate initiatives for the full institutionalization of a language-in-education policy, in this case, a national language that is based on Tagalog. The institutionalization of the Tagalog-based national language, then called Pilipino, found traction during the Japanese occupation when it was used as part of the propaganda, thereby bringing the language to areas where it was not spoken, much less understood. Yet the institutionalization of the national language was not without opposition as there were more non-Tagalog speakers in the Philippines at the time than Tagalog speakers.

The so-called ‘language divide’ that pervaded for decades was left unresolved even after the passage of the 1973 Constitution. The otherwise benign provision on Article XV, Section 3 (2) which provides that “the Batasang Pambansa shall take steps towards the development and formal adoption of a common national language to be known as Filipino” did not do much to quell the protest and resistance of the majority non-Tagalog speakers over the non-feasibility of the measure because Filipino as an artificial language lacked “both native speakers and a literary tradition to help propagate it.”

In light of the 1973 Constitution, the then Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) released DECS Order No. 25 s. 1974, entitled “Implementing Guidelines for the Policy on Bilingual Education,” which served as a basis for the institutionalization of bilingual education policy in basic education. The Bilingual Education Policy (BEP) “aims at the achievement of competence in both Filipino and English at the national level, through the teaching of both languages and their use as media of instruction at all levels.  The regional languages shall be used as auxiliary languages in Grades I and II.  The aspiration of the Filipino nation is to have its citizens possess skills in Filipino to enable them to perform their functions and duties in order to meet the needs of the country in the community of nations.” Furthermore, the goals of the BEP shall be the following: (1) enhanced learning through two languages to achieve quality education as called for by the 1987 Constitution; (2) the propagation of Filipino as a language of literacy; (3) the development of Filipino as a linguistic symbol of national unity and identity; (4) the cultivation and elaboration of Filipino as a language of scholarly discourse, that is to say its continuing intellectualization; and (5) the maintenance of English as an international language for the Philippines and as a non-exclusive language of science and technology. Filipino and English shall be used as media of instruction, the use allocated to specific subjects in the curriculum as indicated in the Department Order No. 25 s. 1974.

The 1987 Constitution, while additive in character as far as the provision on language-in-education policy goes, nevertheless upheld the designation of the artificial and still Tagalog-based Filipino as the national language. Article XIV, Section 6 provides:

“The national language of the Philippines is Filipino. As it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.

Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, the Government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.”

However, Section 7 of Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution provides for the inclusion of regional languages as auxiliary official languages that can be used as an auxiliary media of instruction. Section 9 of the same Article XIV even underscores the promotion, research, development, propagation, and preservation of Filipino and other languages. In light of the new Constitution, the then Department of Education, Culture and Sports released DECS Order No. 81 containing the Alphabet and a Guide for Spelling in the Filipino Language. The Order stipulated that the Filipino alphabet is composed of 28 letters comprised of the original 26 letters of the English alphabet, plus the letters Ñ and Ng. The order also provides instruction on how to read the letters. On August 25, 1988, then President Corazon Aquino signed Executive Order No. 335 enjoining all government offices to take steps necessary for the purpose of using Filipino language in official transactions, communications and correspondence.

On August 14, 1991, President Aquino signed into law Republic Act 7104 creating the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), which is tasked to “undertake, coordinate and promote researches for the development, propagation and preservation of Filipino and other Philippine languages.” On May 13, 1992, the KWF under Ponciano B. P. Pineda passed Resolution 92-1, describing Filipino as a native language, spoken and written in Metro Manila, the National Capital Region, and in urban centers in the archipelago where it is used as a language for communication among ethnic groups. Like any other language, Filipino is in the process of development through loans from other native Philippine languages and non-native varieties of the language and through use on various social situations by speakers of different backgrounds for conversations and for scholarly discussions.

In 1994, then President Ramos signed into law Republic Act No. 7722 creating the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). In 1996, the Commission issued CHED Memorandum Order No. 59 s. 1996, which states that “in consonance with the Bilingual Education Policy underlined  in DECS Order No. 52, Series of 1987, the following are the guidelines vis-a-vis medium of instruction, to wit: (1) language courses, whether Filipino or English, should be taught in that language. (2) At the discretion of the HEI, Literature subjects may be taught in Filipino, English or any other language as long as there are enough instructional materials for the same and both students and instructors/professors are competent in the language. Courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences should preferably be taught in Filipino.

Between 1995 and 2009, there have been numerous attempts in Congress to strengthen and make English as the medium of instruction in all levels. In the 13th Congress, for example, the House of Representatives passed on third reading the so-called English Only bill by Cebuano congressman Eduardo Gullas. However, the Senate failed to act on the Bill as its members were already busy preparing for the 2007 midterm elections. The English Only bill was intended to supersede the bilingual education policy that was still in place since 1974. But neither of the so-called English Only bills came to fruition and in July 14, 2009, the Department of Education issued DepEd Order No. 74 s. 2009 mandating the institutionalization of the mother tongue-based multilingual education in Philippine basic education.

In 2010, President Benigno Aquino III undertook a major education reform by introducing the K12 program and in 2011, he signed into law Republic Act No. 10533, which put in place the K12 system in Philippine basic education. RA 10533 embodied the MTBMLE provisions of DepEd Order No. 74 s. 2009 in Sections 4 and 5.

Models for Assessing

The framework by Susan Malone (2003) is a useful tool in the assessment and analysis of MTBMLE policy implementation. Malone contextualizes MTBMLE within the fold of Education for All (EFA), which requires that new models of development and language and education policies that are integrative in character and operation be put in place to ensure sustainability of education programs that governments undertake.

It is Malone’s view that a strong MTBMLE program owes much of its strength to research where baseline information such as language and education situation are ascertained and factors such as challenges and difficulties in program implementation are obtained and carefully analyzed. Social acceptance or buy-in is also crucial for a program where stakeholders are adequately informed and educated about certain initiatives that are likely to affect them. Higher awareness levels often result into greater mobilization for program support in its various phases. Meanwhile, bringing in the right people into the program is an equally crucial component and by the right people, it means those who are competent, motivated, respected, and passionate, too, about the program. The orthography is another major component required of a strong MTBMLE. However, its development has always been contentious and marred by protests from linguistic communities whose members believe that some agencies of government have effectively stripped them of ownership of their very own orthography because they are less or not involved at all in the process of developing it.

Curriculum and instructional materials are a given in any learning environment. The curriculum and learning materials are, and should be, materials that enable learners to build strong foundations of the first language (L1) and a good bridge to additional languages. The materials should be responsive, contextualized, and localized and enable learners to improve performance and achieve education goals. The learning materials should also be appropriate, interesting, challenging, and engaging. As with any public policy program, a monitoring and evaluation component is necessary to allow implementers and key program stakeholders to make adjustments and to draw lessons and best practices from it. In many cases, it is through monitoring and evaluation that some flaws inherent in program design are discovered. Funding is another major component in Malone’s framework. It should be regular, available, and sustainable. Finally, a supportive policy environment is what provides permanence and strength to a program to survive in the long term.

In a paper commissioned for Unesco, Jessica Ball (2010), explains how education programs and policies are influenced by certain factors in spheres. The framework is useful in terms of how much each factor influences policy and implementation. Ball’s framework relates closely with Malone’s (training, research, policies and funding); the programs sphere may correspond to Malone’s curriculum and learning materials (graded). The sphere for macrosystem values may be what we often refer to as the ‘big picture,’ something that relates well to understanding policy formulation within the policy system model.

It must be noted though that the presence of all the variables or components in either framework does not guarantee success in MTBMLE implementation. The success would depend largely on the kind of as well as the relationship and interdependence between the variables present.

The Pre-MTBMLE Language-in-Education Policy

There are three (3) questions that guide this section, namely:

  1. Why is the issue/problem urgent and be given government attention?
  2. What is the extent/magnitude of the problem?
  3. What has been done on the problem/issue?

Aside from the usual classroom shortage that has become a permanent column fodder, poor attendance and high dropout rate among school-age children is what drives a lot of interventions and innovations in schools, the curriculum, pedagogy, and even the incentives system for teachers and school administrators.

Based on National Statistics Office’s (NSO) Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS) of 2004, six percent of the cohort of 12.6 million school-age children aged 6–11 years old (elementary) are not attending school; for aged 12-15 years old, 11 percent of the cohort of 7.9 million children. That’s a lot of school-age children out of school for so many reasons. By income groups, the same data tells us that dropout is highest among the poorest quantile, with non-attendance rate of 35 percent at the elementary level and 28 percent at the secondary level for the bottom 20 percent income group. On the other, for the top 20 percent of the income group, non-attendance rate is recorded at four percent at the elementary level and five percent at the secondary level (PIDS 2010).

The dropout phenomenon is both an economic and equity issue. Economically, dropout means loss of potential productivity and this will have adverse impact on families at the lowest strata. In terms of efficiency in the education sector, dropout also impacts the goal of achieving a targeted proportion of the population having some level of schooling. Dropout impacts human capital formation, the lack of quality, if not the plain lack of it, impacts on labor and market strength on the macro level. On a micro level, the sadder reality about dropout is to be seen in the never-ending cycle of intergenerational poverty transmission wherein poor children are likely to lead a low-income trajectory in the future. Hence, the dropout phenomenon is a serious economic, equity, and education policy issue that the government must address.

While poverty appears to be the dominant factor for dropout, a study also pointed out school-related reason for what the author calls school-leaving, among them loss of interest and lack of motivation. Teacher factor, family and peers, inaccessibility, adjustment problems, and school readiness are also factors that induce dropout (Nava 2009). While the study points out physical inaccessibility as inductive of school-leaving, there is another form of inaccessibility in many schools that may have contributed to dropout—the language or the medium of instruction used (emphasis mine).

The emphasis on loss of interest, lack of motivation, and teacher factor relates well to issues of content and context in instructional materials that teachers deliver in the classroom. While a responsive language-in-education policy may not or may never address poverty-related nonattendance, it confronts at least a major hurdle in improving attendance by keeping school children interested in their lessons because these are now accessible as these are delivered in the language they understand. A survey of the wealth of research reports on the use of language in education revealed that using the learner’s mother tongue facilitates literacy, learning of academic content, acquisition of a second language (enabling learners to be bilingual) and overall academic achievement (Kosonen 2005). Kosonen also noted that parents are more involved and teachers are able to assess learning achievement.

Although the dropout phenomenon is more pronounced in some areas or regions, it is undoubtedly nationwide in scale and therefore requires a policy action on that level. This is not to say that the government was completely inept so as not to respond. In fact, as discussed in Section II of this paper, there have been numerous attempts to address a myriad of problems plaguing the basic as well as the higher education sector, the dropout phenomenon included. Yet, those interventions did not seem to deliver what was thought to be a transformative reform, if at all. The Human Development Network (HDN), in a 2010 paper written by a group of academics led by Prof. Cynthia Rose Bautista, noted that while the Philippine government has undertaken a series of initiatives in reforming the basic education sector, some things, if not a lot of things, remain the same. Among the major reasons that hinder reform in basic education, in the DepEd itself, is the failed language-in-education policy (Bautista 2010). The paper is categorical in saying the language-in-education policy is out of sync with research evidence.

A closer examination of previous policies and by looking at researches on responsive language-in-education policy, the Bilingual Education Policy (BEP) that was in place before MTBMLE, was a dismal failure as evidenced by its products, many of them teachers who are still teaching who, according to Bautista, “have been reported as greatly deficient in their English language skills (emphasis mine).” The deficiency in the second language (L2) is a default in the BEP because there was no emphasis in the mastery of the first language (L1) of the learners as a condition to acquiring with proficiency a second or third language later on. We have to reiterate the point that using the learner’s mother tongue facilitates literacy, learning of academic content, the acquisition of a second language enabling learners to be bilingual, and overall academic achievement.

In sum, Bautista identified four major points that hinder reform in language-in-education policy. First, the DepEd formulated a weak policy on bilingual education that does not stand on strong theoretical grounds; second, the DepEd surrendered the power to decide on the language of schools rather than advocate research-based policy; third, exacerbating the loss of efficacy in determining the language policy is a seeming lack of serious effort on the part of the DepEd to explain the crucial role of language to policy makers; and finally, the DepEd has yet to negotiate a shift from structural learning paradigms to more socio-constructivist methods of teaching and assessing language and literacy learning.

Furthermore, Bautista identifies institutional factors that hinder reform initiatives in language-in-education policy and in the DepEd itself as an institution that is supposed to possess the capacity to introduce reforms from within. The factors include externally induced reform, pilot project mindset, marginal reform projects from within, untapped project lessons for setting policy directions, constraints beyond DepEd’s control, and cultural barriers.

The externally-driven reforms instigated by foreign donors raise the  question whether DepEd has the institutional capacity to eventually initiate and sustain them and also if the Department can introduce new ideas into its practices and policies given the dependence to foreign assistance. The pilot project mindset tends to miniaturize bigger problems offer solutions without completely understanding the full scale and contexts of the issues involved. The project mentality also tends to view solutions on a short-term. Reform projects initiated at the margins of DedEd tend to bring more issues than contribute to their reform targets. Projects such as Educational Development Project Implementing Task Force (EDPITAF) involved large amounts of money that many non-project staff at DepEd never got to benefit because of the preference of projects to engage people or staff outside of DepEd and detached from the realities of the Department. The non-operationalization of the research, innovation and policy evaluation system within DepEd foregoes institutionalization of lessons culled from programs and projects that will have set the Department’s future policy direction. There, too, are admittedly constraints beyond DepEd’s control especially those involving dealing with other executive agencies of the government such as the Department of Budget and Management. Finally, aside from institutional barriers, there are also cultural factors that hinder reform, among them the resistance to change.

It may be recalled that in 2009, the Department of Education issued DepEd Order No. 74 s. 2009 institutionalizing MTBMLE. The issuance of the Order was at first unanticipated because of at least one reason: President Arroyo was supportive of the Gullas’ English Only Bill as it feeds into her agenda of expanding the BPO sector where frontline service workers need to be proficient in the English language. (In fact, as recently as the 16th Congress, Mrs. Arroyo, now representative of the 2nd District of Pampanga, filed House Bill No. 311 seeking to enhance the use of English as the medium of instruction in Philippine schools). This explains why the so-called ‘counter’ bill on MTBMLE shepherded by Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo of the 2nd District of Valenzuela City could not get any traction.[1] Yet the growing movement advocating for MTBMLE and aided by research evidence could no longer be ignored and so in August 2009, the DepEd issued what was thought to be a response to the clamor for reform. The issuance of the Order precipitated some sort of paradigm shift among a growing number of teachers aside from scholars from the academe and advocates from civil society organizations. DepEd Order No. 74 calls for the institutionalization of the fundamental educational policy and program department-wide in the whole stretch of formal education including pre-school and in the Alternative Learning System (emphasis mine). There was some amount of enthusiasm in the policy and there would be more in the ensuing activities in support of its institutionalization. Between the issuance of the Order and until the next key DepEd officials settled in their respective offices, the MTBMLE as embodied in the Order enjoyed growing popularity and support although there were also those who opposed it, notably academics who belong to the so-called ‘doctrinal left,’ whose nationalist-democratic notion of language-in-education policy is akin to China’s one-language policy. Yet the DepEd was unfazed and even launched a nationwide retooling program to bring early grades teachers up to the task of implementing MTBMLE. Graded materials based on contextualized curriculum were produced at the community level. There was also support from various local government units as well as technical assistance from numerous rights-based nongovernmental organizations involved in literacy and child welfare. Both traction and momentum were present in duration of the program.

In 2010, the administration of President Benigno Aquino III undertook a major reform in education via introduction of the K-to-12 (now called K12) program to enhance the basic education sector. By 2011, RA 10533 was signed into law. RA 10533 embodies the salient points of DepEd Order No. 74 in Sections 4 and 5 of the law. However, the strong MTBMLE provisions in RA 10533 are diluted in the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the mother law. Prof. Ricardo Ma. D. Nolasco of the UP Department of Linguistics called the dilution of the MTBMLE provisions “castration” in his opinion piece in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, arguing that the devolution provision in curriculum and learning material development and production is weakened by escape clauses such as “when appropriate” and “in accordance to national policies and standards,” leaving this provision as well as other provisions mere option rather than an imperative.

As the DepEd slowly rolls out the new curriculum under K12, it also puts a brake on all capacity-building initiatives undertaken in view of DepEd Order No. 74, regardless whether these were beneficial to teachers implementing MTBMLE. The unwarranted disruption was not only a form of discontinuity; it was also a waste of resources because the millions of pesos that DepEd spent on capacity building will have less or no return as the knowledge and preparedness gained by those who underwent such trainings were either underutilized or unutilized at all.

In the pre-K12 MTBMLE, the teachers were oriented on the full breadth and principle of MTBMLE, and the conditions for its successful implementation. It was inculcated among them that MTBMLE is not a mere strategy or pedagogy.  It is a shift in paradigm. MTBMLE is, and could have been, the fundamental education reform that the Philippines has been waiting for decades. In fact, according to Dr. Edilberto de Jesus, Professor Emeritus at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and former DepEd Secretary, the only thing new and innovative about the Philippines’ K12 program is its MTBMLE feature.[2]

Gaps, Challenges, and Difficulties in MTBMLE Policy Implementation Under RA 10533

As it stands today, the ‘castrated’ MTBMLE is reduced to being a bridge, a tool for reading proficiency. In the trainings conducted by DepEd for K12, MTBMLE is assigned the lesser regard and role as just a tool for improving reading skills. Beyond perspectives and ideological divide, the current regard for MTBMLE policy and practice, while it does not diminish its own principles, is unhelpful in advancing learning in the early grades and improving education outcomes for the country. By regarding MTBMLE as just a tool for reading skills improvement, the education leaders are missing the whole point in limiting the potential of what it can contribute to improving learning outcomes. If DepEd‘s policy posture were to be discerned, there is less or no prospect to exhausting the full potentials of MTBMLE. A longitudinal study spanning 11 years and involving a total of more than 210,000 students in both urban and rural schools in the United States did nothing to move DepEd to remove the escape clauses in the IRR of RA 10533. The study showed that students with the longest exposure to their mother tongue outperform the average native English speaker, and students who had an early exit in their mother tongue education performed poorly in the latter years (Thomas and Colliers 1997).

While it is true that RA 10533 lends MTBMLE permanence until another law repeals it, it also makes the challenges and difficulties a long term affair until an honest program reorientation creeps into the minds of those who decide its fate. For one thing, there is no more funding allocation for MTBMLE trainings and materials development or any activity that pertains to MTBMLE. The very limited funds that teacher may access come from the allocation of the IPED, or the Indigenous Peoples Education fund. Section 5 of RA 10533 provides for contextualization of curriculum and learning materials yet funding to flesh out this provision is not made readily available by the DepEd. A lot of teachers who have gone through contextualization workshops had to unnecessarily spend their own money to cover expenses that otherwise should have been provided for by the DepEd. This happened in South Cotabato, in Sarangani, in North Cotabato, in Sultan Kudarat, and in Cotabato City. This also happened in Bukidnon. It is fair to even assume this happens all over the country. This form of minoritization of a mainstream education reform initiative is what happens also in the retooling program of teachers as they were being prepared for the full implementation of K12. In the mass trainings for teachers conducted between 2013 until the recent batch in the summer of 2015, which are normally delivered in five (5) days, only a measly two (2) hours is devoted to MTBMLE. The time allotment brings about questions of quantity and quality.

An ongoing UP-CIDS-supported research in selected areas in eight regions nationwide reveals preliminary findings such as the lack of learning materials and funding to undertake contextualization.[3] The absence of graded learning materials in the language of the users has created an opening for another potential problem: resource materials from Luzon (in Tagalog and Ilokano) are translated for use in Visayas and Mindanao. Offhand, a lot of people see nothing wrong with the practice. However, in the provisions of the law and in the principle of MTBMLE, that’s something irregular, if not anomalous. The practice of issuing out-of-context and culturally-insensitive learning materials to learners in the early grades is driven not by necessity but by convenience and therefore reflects the broken policy implementation of an otherwise noble reform program.

Concerned people in the education reform community could not help but ask if there is corruption going on in the circulation of ‘inappropriate’ learning materials, considering that the government has the resources to procure the former in glossy print but could not finance production of the same in its humbler yet contextualized and culturally-sensitive form at a cheaper acquisition cost. (This paper shall not provide answers to these questions; in may do so in another venue).

Another critical area in MTBMLE is in orthography development, of which RA 10533 is silent and for which some individuals and organizations are trying to take advantage to forward their ideological agenda at the expense of the program and meaningful learning. Due to the demand for contextualization of learning materials, a newfound challenge in rewriting them using a widely-acceptable spelling system has surfaced as word usage, whether spoken or written, indeed vary from one community to another within the same province or region. Differences in spelling usage can be serious, and some users of the same language but spelling could not be brought to an agreement. This difficulty of agreement did not escape the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), whose simplistic prescription is to standardize all Philippine orthographies based on the so-called Ortograpiyang Pambansa for the sake of unity and uniformity. Ironically, the trend worldwide in orthography development of a particular language community is moving away from an expert or linguist-driven process. Rather, the preferred mode is community-based and participatory process where the linguist only serves as a “midwife”or a facilitator where speakers of the language themselves come together in a workshop to discuss both the linguistic and non-linguistic issues that comes with orthography development such as standardization, representation, transparency, acceptability. They then propose a plan of action to meet commonly shared desired outcomes. The study in Zambia, for example, shows that such model may be challenging and complicated and yet community participation can still happen. This will promote a sense of ownership and custodianship over their own orthography (Bow 2012). So far, we have noted two examples of a policy response driven by convenience and not necessarily by research evidence: (a) the supply of translated resource materials because there are no materials available in the language the users need and (b) the standardization of all Philippine orthography based on the Pambansang Ortograpiya for uniformity and unity.

In Section 4 of RA 1074, the law that created the KWF, the Komisyon is mandated to “undertake, coordinate and promote researches for the development, propagation and preservation of Filipino and other Philippine languages and which shall be directly under the Office of the President.” According to people involved in orthography development in several regions, the Komisyon, or its Chair, Virgilio Almario, is doing the exact opposite of what it is mandated to perform. Imposing standardized orthography is nowhere near coordination, or promotion and the actions of the KWF through its chair are neither backed by researches on standardization.

Findings and Conclusions

This section shall be guided by the following question:

  1. Were the measures undertaken effective? Why or why not?

There are four major findings in the paper’s discussion of the language-in-education policy exemplified in the policy implementation of MTBMLE in Philippine basic education within the K12 system.

Firstly, there are gaps in policy and practice. Whereas the policy says this, the practice or implementation does that. There are at least three examples we can mention: (a) funding, (b) curriculum and learning materials development and devolution, and (c) the transition provision. There is a cost of MTBMLE implementation, among them teacher training, learning materials development and contextualization. While the law provides for funding of these activities, the DepEd as the chief implementer of the program under K12 either withholds or totally removes funding. Funding for MTBMLE activities are sourced not from MTBMLE fund pool but from IPED. As provided for in Section 5 of RA 10533, the development and approval of learning materials are devolved to the regions but this is not the case. The escape clauses in the IRR rendered these provisions spineless. The MTBMLE transition program for grades 4 to 6 as provided for in Section 4 is also not being done by DepEd.

Secondly, there are flaws in the policy itself. The provisions in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 10533 are riddled with escape clauses that virtually weaken the intent of the mother law. Section 5 (f) of RA 10533 provides that “the curriculum shall adhere to the principles and framework of MTB-MLE,” and that “schools can localize, indigenize, and enhance the curriculum based on their respective educational and social contexts,” and that “the production and development of locally produced teaching materials shall be encouraged and approval of these materials shall devolve to the regional and division education units.” However, in the IRR, escape clauses like “when appropriate” and “in accordance with national policies and standards” were inserted to effectively do away with devolution.

Thirdly, there is interference in both policy and implementation by other state agencies whose official actions are not sanctioned by its mandates. The KWF, whose mandate is to “undertake, coordinate and promote researches for the development, propagation and preservation of Filipino and other Philippine languages and which shall be directly under the Office of the President” does not have in its mandate the power to impose standardized orthography on Philippine languages.

Finally, there are ambiguities in the relationships and synergies of institutions involved, directly or indirectly, in the policy and implementation of K12. The interference of KWF, for example, in the development of orthographies undertaken by DepEd in collabrtation with language users and speakers while sidelining qualified linguists from the academe raises questions on the competence and credibility of the Commission through its chairman. All stakeholders have each role to play and clearly in this case, there is confusion if not deliberate manipulation to not involve some parties in effective policy implementation.

To render a fair assessment it is paramount to recall the frameworks that Malone and Ball proposed and examine if there is correspondence between the frameworks and the processes involved in MTBMLE policy and its implementation. To examine this correspondence requires availability of baseline data. Fortunately, the ongoing UP-CIDS study may provide some preliminary information to help in the analysis.

There is no doubt that multilingualism, the language-in-education policy in place, has gone through the process of development which can be traced back to 2009 with the issuance of DepEd Order No. 74. What this implies is that the basic demands of policy formulation (and implementation) have been met although we have to caution that compliance does not always assume quality. In this view, our language-in-education policy has the semblance of correspondence to what Malone demands of a ‘strong’ MTBMLE. Preliminary research, awareness raising and mobilization, recruitment and training, orthography development, curriculum and instructional materials development, development of graded learning materials in each language, monitoring, evaluation and documentation are activities that were undertaken at various junctures in the development of the MTBMLE policy. Funding was also provided and a ‘supportive policy environment’ facilitated the passage of the so-called K12 law which embodies our language-in-education policy.

However, as observed in the study that examines the synergies in the implementation of MTBMLE in view of the provisions of RA 10533, there appears to be some serious gaps in the policy implementation of MTBMLE. The most common and complained about across areas covered by the study is the lack of (a) instructional materials in users’ languages, (b) graded learning materials, and (c) funding for contextualization of the learning materials. There is also an issue with orthography development with several languages with no spelling system in place. As mentioned earlier, the KWF’s prescription of standardizing orthographies did not go well with speakers of these languages, much less claim credibility in terms of the existing practices. Monitoring and evaluation is something that has not been underscored or may not have been fully understood and this is reflected in the difficulty of obtaining baseline information, hence the proposal and approval by UP-CIDS to undertake the study and in the process collect valuable data and information useful in setting future policy direction. Training correlates with funding, the availability of which determines the kind and quality that teachers get. In terms of acceptance, much remains to be desired in terms of mobilizing the other key stakeholders within the policy ecosystem, including local government units and their respective chief executives. There is value in mobilizing LGUs and fully involving them because, as demonstrated in many areas, they can mobilize resources and generate funds to support implementation. There, too, remains much to be desired in terms of involvement of local higher educational institutions (HEIs), specifically teacher education institutions or TEIs, in the areas of action research and collaboration with other key stakeholders. There’s only a handful of TEIs whose constituents are actively involved in continuing studies to promote and strengthen MTBMLE and hopefully to inform policymaking.

Finally, the language-in-education policy in place is not a failure, although there is some degree of difficulty in trying to answer the black-or-white question of whether it is effective or not in the absence of complete data and information. Generally though, the policy maybe considered to be less effective given the gaps and challenges and the inherent flaws in the policy itself. Certainly, it does not measure up to the demands of strong MTBMLE. Not yet. But if there’s one lesson that can be discerned out of Malone’s framework, it is the fact that MTBMLE as a policy and as a program has to navigate the ‘treacherous’ policy ecosystem whose ‘temperament’ can only be tamed not by some external force—external forces are part of the ecosystem, as in Jessica Ball’s macrosystem values imply—but by the consensual act of their agents. There has to be some common grounds on which the policy and implementation is rested and where every stakeholder can claim access and ownership to some degree and this can only be accomplished by continuing examination and self-reflection among stakeholder themselves.

Recommendations

The full implementation of the K12 Law, which embodies the provisions that underpin the MTBMLE, is initially thought to cure the deficiencies in the policy implementation. However, since there are inherent flaws in the policy, or at least in its IRR, the following specific measures are recommended to improve implementation.

Closing the gaps between policy and practice. The policy-practice gaps in funding, curriculum and learning materials development and devolution, and transition provision can be closed by the DepEd by making funding available for MTBMLE related activities, subject to the usual provisions of accountability, transparency, and modesty in the use of public funds for public purposes. The contravening provision in the IRR on devolution of development and approval of learning materials should be clarified either by policy issuance or amendment to the said IRR. The MTBMLE transition program for grades 4 to 6 as provided for in Section 4 has to be undertaken by DepEd immediately.

Amendatory policy clarification. The escape clauses in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 10533 have to be removed in order to have a clear-cut policy in keeping with the clear provisions of the mother law.

Dialogues among stakeholders and institutions. Agencies involved in the policy implementation of MTBMLE, whether directly or indirectly, should discuss strategies and points of convergence as well as their respective mandates to determine and correct overlapping functions, if any, so as to avoid interfering on each other’s functions.

Clarification of roles of institutions and stakeholders. The role of each agency, organization or institution involved directly or indirectly in the governance of MTBMLE has to be spelled out clearly and the rules of engagement be set in an unambiguous language to avoid interference and discourage manipulation in the processes and procedures pertinent to the policy implementation of MTBMLE.

Alternatively, advocates in the academe and civil society, among other sectors, should come together and discuss how to strengthen the program and ensure that its implementation is guided by the principles of effective and successful MTBMLE and that its implementation is well within the provisions of the law. They should form their own monitoring body or a watchdog if working with the DepEd and its partner agencies proves not viable. The monitoring body may also conduct research and program assessment either independently or in cooperation with the DepEd or with the academe or with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to fill in the gaps and to further enrich the practice and implementation of MTBMLE. Finally, in all those proposed assessments, it would be beneficial to all interested parties to make use of the frameworks of Malone and Ball by incorporating the variables therein in the survey instrument.

In the long term, the academe should play a more active role, especially in the conduct of a longitudinal study in specific areas in the Philippines to provide a more independent, reliable, and credible information that will inform and set direction for future policymaking. Our policymaking should strive for sustainability. Therefore the more evidenced-based research are undertaken, the better it would be for us and for the policymakers to determine the so-called enablers as well as the constraints of sustainable MTBMLE.

 

References

CONSTITUTIONS

The 1899 Malolos Constitution

The 1935 Constitution

The 1973 Constitution

The 1987 Constitution

REPUBLIC ACTS

Republic Act 7104, An Act Creating the Commission of the Filipino Language, Prescribing its Powers, Duties and Functions, and for Other Purposes

Republic Act No. 7722, Higher Education Act of 1994

Republic Act 10533, An Act Enhancing the Philippine Basic Education System by Strengthening its Curriculum and Increasing the Number of Years for Basic Education, Appropriating Funds Therefor for Other Purposes

HOUSE BILL

HB No. 311. An Act to Strengthen and Enhance the Use of English as the Medium of Instruction in Philippine Schools

INTERNATIONAL DECLARATION

The 1990 UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child

DEPARTMENT ORDERS/MEMORANDUM/CIRCULARS/RESOLUTIONS

CHED Memorandum Order No. 59 s. 1996

Retrievd here http://www.ched.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/CMO-No.59-s1996.pdf

DECS Order No. 25 s. 1974, Implementing Guidelines for the Policy on Bilingual Education

Retrieved here

DECS Order No. 81, Assistance to Private Madrasah: An Incentive to Adopt the Standard Curriculum as Authorized Under DepEd Order No. 51 s. 2004 and Total Mainstreaming of Madrasah Education as a Component of the National System of Basic Education

DECS Order No. 52, Series of 1987

DepEd Order No. 74 s. 2009, Institutionalizing Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MLE)

KWF Resolution 92-1

JOURNAL ARTICLES

Ball, J. (2010). Enhancing learning of children from diverse language backgrounds: Mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education in the early years: Literature review. UNESCO, International Mother Language Development. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002122/212270e.pdf

Bautista, C. R, Bernardo, A. I., and Ocampo, D. (2010). When reforms don’t transform. Reflections on institutional reforms in the Department of Education. Quezon City: Human Development Network.

Bow, C (2012). Community-based orthography development in four Western Zambian languages. Writing Systems Research, 2012. Routledge. Taylor and Francis

Kosonen (2005) Education in local languages: Policy and Practice in South-East Asia. First Language First: Community-based Literacy Programmes for Minority Language Contexts in Asia. UNESCO, Bangkok

Malone, S (2003). Education for multilingualism and multi-literacy in ethnic minority communities: the situation in Asia. Plenary Presentation at the Conference on Language Development, Language Revitalization and Multilingual Education in Bangkok Thailand, November 2003. http://www-01.sil.org/asia/ldc/plenary_papers/susan_malone.pdf

Nava, F. J. (2009). Factors in school leaving: Variations across gender groups, school levels and locations. Education Quarterly, Vol. 67 (1), 62-78

Thomas, Wayne C. and Virginia Collier. (1997). School effectiveness for language minority students. National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.

Newspaper article

Nolasco, Ricardo Ma. D. (2013/09/13). ‘Castrated MTBMLE. Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Retrieved from http://opinion.inquirer.net/61025/castrated-mtb-mle

Policy brief

Orbeta, A. (2010), A glimpse at the school dropout problem (Policy Brief 4-2010)

Retrieved from http://dirp3.pids.gov.ph/ris/pn/pidsbrief04.pdf

 

Endnotes

[1] Interview with Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo at the sidelines of the 1st Philippine Conference-Workshop on Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education, February 18-20, 2010, Cagayan de Oro City.

[2] Remarks in a speech at the AIM-Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Policy Forum on Inclusive Education, February 15, 2011, Discovery Suites, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.

[3] “A Study of the Implementation Synergy of Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education in Schools and the Broader Community in View of RA 10533” is a research funded by the University of the Philippines-Center for Integrative and Development Studies (UP-CIDS), with assistance to proponents extended by Unesco-Bangkok, covers eight regions of the Philippines (Northern Luzon, Bicol, Central and Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Western Mindanao, Central Mindanao, Southern Mindanao) and runs from May to December 2015.

Philippine Bureaucracy and the Persistence of Political Dynasties: A Discussion Paper on Political and Institutional Reforms

INTRODUCTION

The interplay between bureaucracy and political dynasties is an interesting topic in the study of public administration and governance. For one, the parallel development of bureaucratic expansion and political dynasty entrenchment share an identical timeline in history, demanding fuller understanding and critical analysis of the implications that bureaucracy and political dynasties, or vice versa, have on each other and how their relationship influences policymaking and governance in the course of our history.

The discourse on political dynasties cannot but confront the very basic social unit or structure where all the extended discussions emanate—the Filipino family. (McCoy 1994). McCoy asserts that the family is a more effective political unit than an individual as its reputation, loyalties, and alliances are deemed transferable where one family member shares the traits of the others without necessarily innately having them. In the other sections of the book, McCoy calls the family a kinship network whose mutuality in terms of relationship extends to even non-family members.

This paper presents the issues and challenges in the evolution of Philippine bureaucracy parallel to the beginnings and entrenchment and perpetuation of political dynasties. Sections on the different modes of perpetuation as well as the issues surrounding political dynasties are also presented. One important issue that relates closely to the phenomenon of political dynasties—term limits—and which has a provision in the 1987 Constitution is also presented. Finally an anaysis on the dynamics of political dynasties as the bureaucracy is also attempted.

THE PHILIPPINE BUREAUCRACY

Evolution of Philippine Bureaucracy

The political structure in the precolonial Phiilippines provided the most rudimentary service to the people.  This local institution, known as the barangay, was headed by chief called a datu or rajah and was assisted by a council of elders who were responsible for the maintenanc of internal peace and defense, tribute collection, and administration of justice (De Guzman, 1998). Kinship defines authority and the datu is considered the chief of the barangay. He performs the role of a judge, lawmaker and implementer of laws (Rebullida and Serrano, 2006).

During the Spanish period, a highly centralized colonial administration was established on the widely dispersed and community-based system of government (De Guzman, 1998). The once independent barangays are now at the bottom of the hierarchy, subsumed under the pueblos that were under the provincias. There was no separation of church and state, allowing intervention of state affairs by the clergy. The traditional datus’ power was also subsumed. The Spanish colonial period also gave rise to the principalia, the local political and economic elite who have access to both civil and church authorities. Spain’s three centuries of colonization resulted into institutionalized values and traits that influence public administration, among these pakikisama, utang na loob, and hiya. It is argued that these values partly explain the rise of graft and corruption, nepotism and favoritism, and patronage. These values are in direct contrast to Weberian’s characteristic of a bureaucracy (Rebullida and Serrano, 2006). A civil service was established with people performing integral executive, legislative, and judicial functions. However, the bureaucracy under Spain was perceived to be corrupt. Civil servants are said to be seldom paid but allowed instead to retain a percentage of taxes they collected. Under Spain, there were only five main departments, namely the Army, Navy, Justice, Finance, and the Directorate General of Civil Administration.

The 1896 Revolution installed the Malolos Republic. Following the declaration of independence in Malolos, a representative and democratic form of government with executive, legislative and judicial branches was established. Accordingly, the most important document produced during the period was the Malolos Constitution of 1899, outlining the form of government that is said to be parliamentary in structure. A Council of Government was created under a president and composed of seven departments each headed by a secretary: Foreign Affairs, Interior, Finance, War, Army and Navy, Public Instruction, Public Communications and Works, and Agriculture, Industry and Commerce (De Guzman, 183).

When the Americans gained control of the Philippines, they retained the centralized form of government but added a few departments and, more importantly, introduced the principle that public office is a public trust, making civil servants accountable to the people they serve. While remnants of Spanish-style governance can still be observed, the Americans introduced modern bureaucracy characterized by accountability for public resources. The Philippine Commission was then established and among its first acts was the passage of Act No. 5, 9 September 1900, An Act for the Establishment of an Efficient and Honest Civil Service in the Philippines. The reform Act places all government positions below a bureau director under the civil service, and covers national and local positions. A system of merit and qualification was introduced underscoring competence, independence, and integrity in public service. There were six government departments during this period, namely: Finance, Justice, Public Instruction, Interior, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Commerce and Communications.

In 1935, the Philippine Commission was established and a constitution was approved in that same year (De Guzman, 183) that contained a separate provision on civil service. The 1935 Constitution contained a separate provision stipulating that all appointments to government positions should be made only based on merit and fitness to be determined in a competitive examination. There were three additional departments created during this period.

The advent of the Second World War put the Philippines under the Japanese occupation, during which time the bureaucracy was kept relatively small with only six ministries: Foreign Affairs, Finance, Justice, Agriculture and Commerce, Public Works and Communications, and Education. An all-Filipino civil service was in place led by the Philippine Executive Commission.

After the war, the Philippines began to restructure its bureaucracy and the regular departments during the Commonwealth were augmented by the creation of a Department of Foreign Affairs. Between this period until the middle of the 1950s, tales of graft and corruption and incompetence were common as more unqualified personnel were brought in by the appointing powers of the time. It was not until 1954 when administrative reforms were initialized by the creation of the Government Survey and Reorganization Committee, followed by the Reorganization Committee in 1956. However, the reorganization intent of the Committee was rendered ineffectual because laws were passed exempting agencies from coverage (De Guzman, 184).

With the growth and expansion of government came the large-scale spoils system that characterized succeeding administrations. In 1965, upon his assumption to the presidency and against the backdrop of an oversized and inefficient bureaucracy, Marcos asked Congress to effect a reorganization anchored on simplicity, economy, and efficiency in government (De Guzman, 184). Three years later, in 1968, Congress approved the Reorganization. But it was not until 1972 that Congress approved the Integrated Reorganizational Plan without modification. The plan, adopted entirely by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1 during Martial Law, had intended to streamline the bureaucracy saddled with duplicative agencies. But the plan encountered difficulties in the implementation in the absence of an open consultation between decision-makers and the implementers (De Guzman, 185).

The Philippine bureaucracy has evolved over a period of time. From the Post-war era until the current administration of President Benigno Aquino III, a lot of reforms have been introduced all intended to make the bureaucracy respond to needs and the demands of the citizenry. The bureaucratic structures and models have undergone a series of changes and a lot of innovations and reforms, both substantively and superficially, yet some of the things remain the same. It is as if all those initiatives undertaken barely scratched the surface of the problem.

Issues and Challenges in Philippine Bureaucracy

De Guzman identified more than a dozen major trouble spots in Philippine bureaucracy that confront the civil servant, the public service end-user, and the policymakers. These troubles will persist until hard decisions are taken to bring about difficult but necessary changes in the form and substance of our bureaucracy (De Guzman, 197). We can start with the centralization versus decentralization. Until Marcos misappropriated it, centralization did not project a specter of a totalitarian regime. The Marcos regime started politicizing the bureaucracy, subverted public interest, gave rise to crony capitalism, incurred huge public debts, and consolidated economic and political power through Martial Law that is credited for numerous human rights violations and corporate takeovers by the state. As a result, the government of the first Aquino administration presided over the difficult period of transition and redemocratization, and shepherded the passage of the new Constitution and the Local Government Code to guide the massive rebuilding and reorganization. The 1987 Constitution underscores empowerment by devolution, ushering in reforms in governance in the delivery of social services by engaging civil society and the grassroots (Rebullida and Serrano, 2006). Yet, the ensuing decentralization suffered infirmity because much of the devolution pertains only to powers and functions and not resources, resulting in a myriad of unfunded mandates in our laws.

Duplication and overlapping of functions in personnel and agencies are noted, resulting in more inefficiency and waste of resources. Inadequate coordination between and among agencies in government cost both lives and resources. The latest example of this would be the event in Mamasapano, Maguindanao wherein 44 PNP Special Forces operatives were killed in an encounter with members of the rebel group MILF all because of the lack of coordination between and among leaders in the PNP and the AFP.

Graft and corruption seems to be a permanent fixture in Philippine bureaucracy. This problem is too huge it earns its own mystique. The scale is grand. Judging by the daily headlines and the number of congressional inquiries on corruption cases involving bureaucrats one can definitely say that corruption has already become an essential part of our culture, or our values system.

Red tape and inefficiency are inseparable and correlate even to graft and corruption. While we have already an anti-red tape law in place, a lot remains to be done in terms of enforcing the policy and incentivizing people to encourage efficiency, on the part of the public servants, and vigilance among the public as end-users. Cumbersome and complicated procedures when transacting with government agencies have stymied not only investors from doing business in the country. More importantly, it discourages citizens’ engagement and participation. Surveys after surveys churn out unfavorable results in terms of ease of doing business in the Philippines, at least generally. The Citizen’s Charter, however, is an important initiative to improve public service delivery but a lot of people are not aware of it.

Ineffective administration of public enterprises brings back headlines on abuses of discretion among officers and officials in government-owned and controlled corporations. The latest to banner the dailies is the so-called DBP “wash sale” or the illegal buying and selling of securities where no real change of ownership takes place. The Napoles scandal reminds us of the weaknesses and the many loopholes in our bureaucratic process despite its projected rigidity. Of course, corruption plays a major part in those allegedly multibillion-peso anomaly involving high officials of the government.

The inadequacy of the communication system in the bureaucracy maybe understood on two levels: on the level of human skills and on the level of hardware or technology, or the absence of either one or both. The practice of creating adhocracies, or the penchant for creating extrabureaucratic structures within the bureaucracy not only confuses functions and powers but also bears on the resources of an agency. Yet the creation of this adhocracies are couched in sophisticated technocrat’s jargon that decision-makers are inclined to favor without giving thought to the possibility that its creation is to mask the lack of planning, if not bad planning, that left a lot of unanticipated needs.

Problems in personnel administration are probably a lifetime concern of the bureaucracy. Even with the ongoing government-wide rationalization plan, reports of overstaffed yet undermanned agencies are all too common, especially in areas where political patronage is high. The areal versus sectoral planning and management dilemma will continue to linger until our planning philosophy is able to strengthen the coordinative mechanisms at various levels of government. Equally important, too, is the political leadership that can provide a sense of mission and direction so that all government planning are directed and dedicated towards its accomplishment.

Development commitment among civil servants is such highly volatile topic as it related to ethics, accountability, performance, professionalism and, of course, incentives. But it helps to bring up the principle that public office is public trust as an entry of a values formation program in the civil service, of which the Civil Service Commission is doing already. What is needed perhaps is a strong monitoring program and regular assessment to check whether values formation initiatives answer the organizational needs of agencies.

Finally, citizen’s participation in governance, while messy, is an effective counterpoint to the inefficiencies of bureaucracy. Citizen’s participation can be a double-edge sword, so it works either to one’s advantage or disadvantage. Citizen’s participation is enshrined in the Constitution as a reactive measure to the Marcos dictatorship. Participatory governance, in its various forms and expressions, has improved delivery of basic social services especially to areas where government has very limited presence. The Community-Driven Development approach, for example, used by the government in its KALAHI-CIDDS program has shown encouraging results (Mangahas and Arroyo, 2014).

POLITICAL DYNASTIES IN THE PHILIPPINES

History

Pre-Colonial Period

Scholars commonly trace the beginnings of political dynasties to as early as the pre-colonial times, in the days of the datu, of the maharlikas, our own version of royalty that predates the federal system of government, a system we copied poorly, if not wrongly, from the Americans. The small villages of yore were virtual kingdoms each ruled by a datu, whose reign and succession is guaranteed by his heirs—his family, his son.

Colonial Period

The Spanish colonial times gave rise to the principalia, an emerging class that embodied the new form of local elite. The Spaniards relied on the clergy for the administration of the islands and never established a strong centralized State. Instead power was dispersed amongst various elite families in the provinces. These families were granted the right to hold land, vote, and serve in positions of local political power (Querubin, 2010). The principalia rose from playing puppets to Spanish authorities to become rulers later on. They evolved from being clerks and trusted servants of the Spanish power holders to become power-wielders themselves over time. From attendants of vast landholdings of the Spanish Crown, they became landlords (hacienderos) themselves. And so after four centuries, the principalia finally established its own foothold in the economic and political affairs of the state. They would become the new ruling class. The principalia, along with a handful of Chinese traders were on to become the oligarchs of the time. They were the new maharlikas. The local principalia would further consolidate their power during the American colonial period.

American Period

The Americans needed a partner and loyal ally in the local elite who controlled the lands and even forces that once fought against the Spaniards for them to “govern” the islands. As a concession, the Americans introduced elections (Querubin, 2010), the qualifications of which were quite steep only the local elite could satisfy, such as literacy and property, and rightly so because they were only the ones who could send their children to school. It should be noted that under President Taft, voting and electoral participation were limited to the propertied class, which at that time constituted less than one percent (1%) of the population (Tuason, 2010). Many of the propertied class were descendants of the same local elite who gained concessions during the Spanish period.

Predictably, in the elections that were held in 1901 and 1907, majority of those who emerged winners were mostly coming from the ranks of the local elite. So while education and suffrage were introduced, access and full exercise—meaning to elect and be elected—was not only limited but also exclusive to a certain class. This clearly contributed to the rise of family power, of the local elite. These elite families whose influence cut across business and politics would continue to receive special favors and concessions from the Americans that allowed them to expand their businesses and advance their political ambitions (Tuazon, 2010).

Post-war Era and Post-Edsa

In the post-war House of Representatives (1946 Congress), of the 98 congressmen elected, 61 or 62% came from families with elective position from 1907 to 1941. This proportion of dynastic share of congressional seats continues to this day, even higher according to the AIM study (Mendoza et al, 2013). Yet the expansion of political dynasties may be traced back to the American colonial period when the principalia was able to consolidate their power and control over the political and economic affairs of the state.

A cursory look at the names of Philippine political leaders and administrators during and after the American period reveals that the same families that control business and politics are very much around, although some of their kin opted out of politics in favor of concentrating in business. The most enduring example of a family or clan that is able to withstand several political transitions yet maintain its formidable position in both politics and business is none other than the family of the incumbent president. The president’s clan has produced two presidents, five senators, a handful of congresspersons, and several governors. On the business side, the president’s relatives are still perched on top of their respective industries. In terms of consolidated interests in business and politics, the Lopezes, who are major beneficiaries of rent seeking (McCoy, p. 20) and who control media conglomerate ABS-CBN and power utility monopoly Meralco may have been a perfect example had the family decided to keep politics within and beyond their traditional turf in Western Visayas. The clan has produced a vice president in Fernando and a few congresspersons who have since retired.

During the Marcos years, political dynasties were dormant, deferring to the soon-to-be-consolidated and now-returning Marcos-Romualdez dynasty. The reason was simple: Marcos had most of the political dynasties under his clutches. The way to describe it today is a centralized dynasty, with President Marcos at the top.

After Marcos’ ouster, and upon Corazon Aquino’s assumption into power, the once dormant political dynasties slowly wormed back themselves into power. And by the time the first Congress post-Edsa opened, the once sidelined political dynasties found themselves reunited in the halls of Congress and in provincial capitols nationwide. It was even estimated that in 1987, 80% of the members of the House of Representatives belong to political dynasties.

The succeeding congresses saw a dismal reduction in the number of political dynasties occupying seats in the Lower House, which in the 15th Congress had a 67% share. This is according to a study by the AIM Policy Center. The 15th Congress has 234 regular members and 55 party-list representatives, or a total membership of 289. This means that 157 representatives in the 16th Congress belong to political dynasties. The AIM Policy Center is currently working on the results of the May 2013 elections. But some preliminary reports indicate almost similar shares of seats at around 70% in the 16th Congress, which translates into 164 dynastic members of the Lower House. While some political dynasties suffered setbacks in the May 2013 elections, notably the Jalosjoses (Philippine Star, May 14, 2013) in the Zamboanga region, the Singsons of Ilocos Sur were able to wrestle more power than in the previous election of 2010.

Glaringly in the Senate, the Cayetano sibling act is now complimented by the entry of Jose Victor “JV” Ejercito, who shares the same father with Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Manila mayor and former president Joseph Estrada, whose wife Loi is a former senator herself and who shared three years of her term in the Senate with her son, Jinggoy. The Senate in the 16th Congress nearly had a father-and-son tandem had Jack Enrile made it, who would have shared three years of the remaining term of his father, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

While Senator Nancy Binay does not have a relative in the Senate, she’s in the limelight for the simple reason that her father is Vice President Jejomar Binay, whose two other children themselves wield power in the country’s premier business capital, Makati City, where daughter Abigail is the first district representative and son Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay is the city mayor.

The examples tell us one thing: that after 1986, there was “massive democratization” of political dynasties. Overall, political dynasties prevailed (Philippine Star, May 18, 2013).

THE PROBLEM WITH DEFINITION

Article II, Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution says “”The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” The key phrases here are prohibit political dynasties and as may be defined by law. In plain language, the provision is tentative and non-self-executory. This only means one thing: the need for a legislated definition, an enabling law, to breathe life to the provision. The definition bears the mark of a masterful trademark of politically expedient work on the part of the crafters of the 1987 Constitution who left the burden of defining what constitutes political dynasties to those who will be affected by the provision: the dynastic members of Congress. Hence, from 1987 until 2015, the constitutional prohibition of political dynasties remains unenforceable. In a first test case ever filed against members of political dynasties from the different parts of the country seeking various elective positions in the 2013 midterm elections, the anti-dynasty advocates used Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s own definition of political dynasty in Navarro versus Ermita as a “phenomenon that concentrates political power and public resources within the control of a few families whose members alternately hold elective offices, deftly skirting term limits.” The respondents belong to what is considered “an obvious case of political dynasty.” The case was dismissed by the Comelec and eventually by the Supreme Court, again, in the absence of an enabling law.

The struggle against political dynasties is actually a struggle for a legislated definition for no amount of public shaming will disqualify the so-called dynastic candidates from seeking elective position. The same provision in the Constitution that “prohibits” political dynasties “guarantees” the political rights of everyone to vote and be voted upon, including members of political dynasties. The struggle for the passage of an enabling in Congress is now 28 years old and has gone though several congresses already, starting with the first post-Edsa Congress. And for the first time in 27 years, an anti-dynasty bill reached the House plenary in 2014. Understanding the difficulty in passing an anti-dynasty provision is no rocket science as people are cautioned not to expect dynastic members of Congress to legislate their own extinction. In a house dominated by political dynasties, it is unthinkable that an anti-dynasty measure could even hurdle past the committee. Yet, it is now in the Plenary. But while the measure has gone that far, the question is now on the content. Advocates can only hope that the debate should now center on the definitions as to who is covered and whether they should pass an anti-dynasty measure at all.

But to understand and appreciate better the issue of political dynasty and why is there a need for a law to define it, it is good to revisit previous attempts as well as some definitions proposed for legislation. Senate Bill No. 2649, authored by Senator Miriam Santiago, defines political dynasty as existing when:

“(a) a person who is a spouse of an incumbent elective official holds or runs for an elective office simultaneously with the incumbent elective official within the same province or occupies immediately after the term of office of the incumbent elective official.  It shall also be deemed to exist where two (2) or more persons are spouses or related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity run simultaneously for elective office within the same province, even if neither is so related to an incumbent public official.

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the Makabayan coalition also came up with their own version. And very much like the Santiago bill, it shares the same prescribed limitations and never saw the light of day in the 15th Congress.

Outside of Congress, several advocacy groups and political parties have come up with their own proposals, notably the Kapatiran Party and the Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM). In contrast to similar bills pending in Congress before (and also now), the version of Kapatiran Party that gained support from numerous civil society groups covered national positions. Additionally, Senate Bill No. 412 filed by Senator Sergio Osmeña III during the first regular session of the Thirteenth Congress in 2004 also covered national positions. Note that both the Santiago and Makabayan bills conveniently left out the national positions. The decision to include national elective positions is on the realization that consolidation of power takes place not only at the local, provincial level but also at the national level. In fact, national elective officials had a hand in the perpetuation of political dynasties by dispensing undue favors to relatives occupying top local positions and more significantly, by their refusal to enact an enabling law to prohibit political dynasties.

To illustrate the effect of the legislated Kapatiran Party bill, for example, Senator Alan Cayetano would have been prevented from seeking reelection while his sister is incumbent. If the law were in effect, it would have prevented the senator’s brother’s candidacy for congressman and his sister’s candidacy as mayor of Taguig City. Unfortunately, all the Cayetanos who ran in 2013 got elected, except for the eldest sister, Pia who is serving her remaining three years in the Senate. One version that is now in the Committee of Sen. Pimentel allows only one family member to run and covers the post of a barangay councilor. Most versions so far are for legislative action. For all those bills to move an inch outside their committees, the President has to certify them as urgent bills requiring priority legislative action.

MODES OF PERPETUATION

Vertical and Horizontal Expansion

According to The New Oxford American dictionary, perpetuation is to “make something, typically an undesirable situation or unfounded belief, continue indefinitely.” The persistence of political dynasties is something that only the members desire its perpetuity. According to Mendoza, the most common form of perpetuation is my succession, also called horizontal perpetuation, or expansion. This is the case of generational transfer of political power within the family that in some cases spans a generation. The transfer of power form one family member to the next is mainly due to term limits, for which our Constitution provides. For positions other than the President down to senators, a three-year term is allowed which means a total of nine years if a candidate is elected consecutively. Mendoza calls this mode of perpetuation a thin type of dynasty.

Another mode of perpetuation is the horizontal perpetuation or expansion. This happens when two or more members of the family simultaneously occupy positions. Dynasties in this category are referred to as fat dynasty. By this type of definition, the family of Vice President Binay could easily qualify, him being a vice president, who was succeeded in office as mayor by his son, whose two sisters are members of Congress, one a senator the other a representative of her district. It would have been fatter if the vice president’s wife occupies another elective post whether locally or nationally.

Geopolitics

In the guise of better public service, political families ventured into gerrymandering as a form of consolidating political power in the provinces. There were several cases that can be discussed but among the famous ones is that of the Villafuertes in Camarines Sur. The proposal to carve a new province out of Camarines Sur came from four lawmakers representing the province at that time at the House of Representatives, Reps. Arnulfo Fuentebella, Luis Villafuerte Sr., Diosdado Ignacio “Dato” Arroyo and Rolando Andaya. They authored House Bill 4820, which was approved by 229 House members in August 2011. But according to insiders in Camarines Sur, the context of dividing the huge province is that Luis Sr. was looking for a district where he could continue to represent in case he lost the battle for governorship to no other than his grandson, Miguel. Comelec records will show that in fact Luis Sr. lost to his grandson who succeeded his father L-Ray as governor of Camarines Sur in the 2013 mid-term elections. And Luis Sr., having no district to run, is now out of office.

Another strategy for perpetuation is by expanding the family political power outside of its traditional bailiwick that is akin to a franchise. This is what happened to the Jalosjos political dynasty that is traditionally based in Zamboange del Norte but expanded to the rest of the Zamboanga Peninsula, including Zamboanga de Sibugay as well as Misamis Occidental. But as the 2013 Comelec records will bear, the Jalosjos dynasty suffered a major setback with only two family members elected: Romeo’s son Seth Frederick as representative of the first district of Zamboanga del Norte and elder sister Rosalina Jalosjos-Johnson as city councilor of Dapitan.

PROBLEM WITH POLITICAL DYNASTIES

Distortion of Political Institutions

Acemoglu and Robinson (2012) offered some explanations on why nations fail in terms of attaining economic development. Nations fail because they don’t have the right political and economic institutions that facilitate and sustain growth and development. They maintain the view that democratic political and inclusive economic institutions are indispensible for sustained long-term development. Acemoglu and Robinson defined and made clear distinction of institutions as either inclusive or extractive. Inclusive institutions are those that allow and encourage participation of a broad segment of the population in both the process and outcomes of development. On the other hand, extractive institutions concentrate and perpetuate political and economic power and confine the benefits of production in the hands of the few, of the elite at the expense of the many, or the masses. North Korea, some sub-Saharan African states, and Russia before and shortly after the fall of the Soviet empire have such institutions. It may be contentious to some but China exemplifies an extractive institution as the Central Communist Party remains the largest beneficiary of the country’s massive economic expansion, the benefits of which did not trickle down to the ordinary village people in the world’s second largest economy. The Chinese economic expansion only serves to widen the gap between the rising number of millionaires and the hundreds of millions of poor in rural villages.

Political dynasties, generally understood as the concentration of political power in the hands of a family or clan, are an example of an extractive political institution. By concentrating and perpetuating power in families or clans, political dynasties prevent the emergence of broad-based political and economic institutions. In fact, political dynasties in the Philippines have become part of life, an ideology in itself even. Political dynasties take the place of political parties—the very political institutions entrusted with the task of setting the development agenda in legislature. Political dynasties may not be invincible, but they are unavoidable and anyone who entertains the temptation of getting into elective politics has to deal with them. There is no escaping them; they are everywhere—in the Senate, the House of Representatives, in the provincial, city, or municipal governments. Even in the barangays! But equally important to note is the presence of some of its members in key executive positions in the national government. But that would be another point.

Self-Perpetuation, Self-Persistence, Undue Advantage and the Rise of Low-Quality Politician

The logic of persistence of political dynasties lies in the very structure of our political system that is still very much rested on a client-patron arrangement against which cosmetic reforms failed to even scratch its surface, so to speak. The symbiotic elite-mass, landlord-tenant, patron-client, and candidate-voter relationship will probably linger much longer than political reform initiatives are designed to address them. One theory that explains persistence is the theory of exchange that postulates that consensus and peaceful exchange under the law is what characterize politics within the territory of a state (McCoy, p. 46). This theory, in effect, makes elections a free-for-all exercise with only those who have the means to win, including vote buying, likely to emerge as victors. The succeeding paragraphs shall examine how theories of perpetuation and persistence are validated by case studies at least in the Philippine context.

Dal Bo et al. (2009) investigate whether political power is self-perpetuating, that power begets power. Self-perpetuation is defined as a power-treatment effect, whereby holding political power increases the probability that one’s heirs attain political power in the future regardless of family characteristics. Focusing on the transmission of political power, they conclude that power, indeed, is self-perpetuating and that power augments the political capital that is transmitted within a family, creating an advantage of a cumulative, rather than fixed, nature (Dal Bo 2009). The longer one’s tenure, the more likely one is to establish a political dynasty and that this relationship is causal (emphasis mine).

On the other hand, Querubin (2011) has done an exhaustive analysis on political dynasties in the Philippines. His analysis on dynastic persistence yields the following findings:

  • there is an evidence of self-perpetuation in power by political dynasties in the Philippines (in affirming Dal Bo)
  • the results of his research demonstrates that those who serve as congressmen or provincial governors are four times more likely to have a future relative in office than a candidate who run and lose
  • this effect is not driven by unobserved characteristics of candidates and their families; rather, there is a causal effect from holding political power on the electoral success of future relatives. This is called incumbency advantage (also in Dal Bo).
  • in the Philippines, dynastic candidates are 22% more likely to win an election than individuals without any previous relatives in office. (Twenty-two percent may be minuscule, but compared to zero probability is significant).
  • the political system may create new powerful families because non-dynastic individuals who access office are more likely to create political dynasty of their own.
  • the political system itself creates persistence.
  • societies that draw its leaders from a small set of families could end up with politicians of lower quality. I believe there is no need for me to elaborate this point.

Anomaly in Modernizing Democratic Society

The prevalence and expansion of political dynasties is a continuing anomaly in our modern, democratic politics. And rightly so because of our pretension that the emergence of organized parties with strong ideological orientation as well as the growing population of young people can take care of our so-called democratic deficits. But a report of the Bertelsmann Foundation, part of which was carried by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, was not the least damning as it was brutally frank. Oligarchy, we realize, is what we are and we continue to be unless we do something fundamentally difficult but necessary steps. And that calls for the dismantling of oligarchy and political dynasties “to make politics and economics more transparent and competitive (in PDI, April 17, 2014).”

What makes the situation more anomalous is the reluctance, if not blatant refusal, of the Aquino administration to make the passage of deep political reform measures a priority of this government. There could be no other reason for the unwillingness of the president to upset the imbalance except that he wants to perpetuate the system for pragmatic considerations.

Ethics and Accountability Issue

When the fate of a barangay, municipality, city, or province is discussed and decided over family lunch or dinner, accountability is in danger. Accountability and the system of checks and balances are imperatives for good governance. News of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada realigning his pork barrel, which was just ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, to the City of Manila where his father is the Mayor had the public confused. The public could not help but ask if the pork barrel was ruled illegal, why not just return it, just like what majority of senators did. What added controversy to the realignment is the idea that the P100M fund could have been spent in more needy areas in Mindanao. Why Manila, which is far from a needy LGU, is everyone’s question at that time.

While there is no study that established causality between dynasties and corruption, the daily headlines have something to tell. Besides resources, the other and more potent form of corruption is that of political corruption where accountability is difficult to extract from the perpetrators.

Problem with Term Limits

Meanwhile, Querubin’s study on term limits yields the following conclusions:

  • term limits do not effectively increase the turnover of incumbent families in Congress and provincial governorships in the Philippines
  • term limits may change “stance” in Congress in terms of social policies legislation, but unlikely to change the fundamental interests represented in the democratic system
  • father anti-RH, successor son pro-RH
    • term limits do not affect in any sense the fundamental sources of political power of dynasties which include control over land, employment, and violence in their respective provinces (3Gs of election; clientilism, patronalistic)

Querubin (2011) concludes that “reforms that do not alter the underlying distribution of political power will not succeed in substantively changing the political equilibrium because incumbents will adapt and remain powerful under the new set of institutions.” He added that “while term limits may allow quality politicians to remain in office for a longer period of time, it may also exacerbate the dynastic nature of Philippine politics by providing incentives for incumbents to bring additional members of their family to power and thus control several offices simultaneously.” This is the case with the Cayetanos and the Estradas, and at some point, the Zubiris of Bukidnon.

Weak Bureaucracy and Strong Political Families: The Lethal Mix

 

McCoy (1994) traces two key elements that contribute to the rise of political dynasties that in turn weakens the bureaucracy: the rise of rents, or popularly referred to as rent seeking and the diminished central government control over provinces. Rent seeking is a form of monopoly where markets are restricted through numerous regulations with the intent of awarding access to favored constituents (McCoy, p. 11). Rent seeking characterized Philippine politics as the country emerged from the clutches of its last colonial masters. The emergence of the Philippine Republic is what provided the impetus for heightened rent seeking such that politicians at that time won their posts in elections largely funded by local elite. As a form of payment, concessions were made to favor the elite political supporters from one administration to the next, and these favors would encroach into the realms of appointments in the civil service. The unabated concessions of the government to local political and business elite left impacted the state’s resources thereby weakening the bureaucracy and in effect strengthening political families, reinforcing the view that Philippine bureaucracy has long been penetrated by particularistic oligarchic interests, which have a firm independent economic base yet rely heavily upon their access to the political machinery in order to promote private accumulation. Because the state apparatus is unable to provide the calculability necessary for advanced capitalism, one finds instead a kind of rent capitalism based, ultimately, on the plunder of the state apparatus by powerful oligarchic interests (McCoy, 1994, p. 13). The weakening of the state bureaucracy can be traced back then to as early as the American period when the American administrators, in trying to correct the perceived excesses of the Spanish colonization, introduced local autonomy and elections that opened access to political power to the local elite.

DYNASTIES AS THE BUREAUCRACY

The concepts of dynasty and bureaucracy, presumably, are far apart in literatures either in political science or public administration yet their origins and convergence seem inevitable probably because these concepts are intertwined, if not interlocked, especially when discussed in the Philippine context. For a starter, bureaucracy is understood as a specific form of social organization for administrative purpose and for dealing with the activities of a large number of people in a way similar to the family (De Guzman, p.181). The framework by which we can understand the interlocking relationship and their implication on each is the client-patron arrangement. Rocamora (2008) uses as example the case of then Makati City mayor and now Vice President Jejomar Binay to illustrate how a budding dynasty at that time could parallel or alternate, if not totally replace the functions of a bureaucracy and how it is done ‘efficiently’ such that it benefits the patron, in this case the former mayor, and the clients themselves, the underprivileged Makati constituents. In my own province, Bukidnon, before the advent of socialized health insurance and other aid programs the name Zubiri is synonymous to a hospital, a market or grocery, a funeral parlor, and an ATM machine (although ATMs were not yet popular at the time, especially in Mindanao, much less Bukidnon). The Zubiri patriarch, incumbent Governor Jose Maria Jr., is the chief political patron and kingmaker of the province even to this day, whose political career is built on patronage but not violence. Even before he became an assemblyman, his first foray into politics, Joe as the governor is fondly called, is a magnet for ‘charity,’ which he shrewdly converted into political capital by distributing goods and cash whenever opportunity presented itself. Like Binay, Joe Zubiri saw the lack of government response, if not ineptitude, to the needs of his constituents and the absence of readily accessible services. In a sense, the distribution of patronage is efficient, but it was hardly inclusive because not all needy residents have availed of the manna from sugar cane, as Joe Zubiri’s funds were mostly personal and drawn from his income in his sugar business, at least according to the patriarch himself.

The tales above may not illustrate the more graphic examples of how dynasties not only alternate or replace government or its essential functions but turned their constituents captive in an unequal client-patron relationship. Anecdotally, some political dynasties in Mindanao behave like monarchs in a democratic, republican country.

THE WAY FORWARD

Insulating Bureaucracy

The classic Weberian bureaucracy is sought in the face of politicization of our administrative system. While a politics-free bureaucracy is utopic, its professionalization may approximate what many desire to be an independent civil service with well-informed and economically self-reliant members who are immune to political pressure within and outside of their workplaces. It is a widely held belief that the economically independent class are free from the dictates of politicians. In some cases, the reverse is true. The current efforts, or rather the cumulative undertakings of the government, in professionalizing the civil service may have fallen short in strengthening our bureaucracy. However, no efforts can and should be taken as stand alone tools or solutions in insulating bureaucracy. The passage of supporting measures is highly desirable such as further rationalization of performance incentives and bonuses to inspire higher performance in the public sector.

CONCLUSIONS

Article II, Section 26 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” It sounds neat, but not really. This provision is non-self-executory in the first place and therefore requires an enabling law to take effect.

Unfortunately, the task of defining political dynasties as provided for in the Constitution is essentially left to Congress, which is a lair of political dynasties. The Congress is therefore a wrong place and a wrong choice for legislating a defining of political dynasties. It is wishful thinking to expect Congress to legislate its own members’ eventual extinction! This explains why after 27 years, Congress has failed to enact an anti-dynasty law, and the simple and obvious reason is that such a law would go against the interest of a majority of its members.

The discourse on political dynasties in relation to the development or degeneration of our bureaucracy hopefully will never lose academic and research value as we continue to analyze and scrutinize the logic that undergirds such relationship as well as prod on to search for ways to improve governance and administration against the specter of this continuing anomaly.

From an advocate’s perspective, there is no easy way to succeed in what the Bertelsmann Foundation prescribes as the dismantling of the oligarchy and political dynasties to make politics and economics competitive. That statement was made from a position of comfort because the realities on the ground so far remain to be perfect haven for dynastic expansion and mini oligarchy. Until we began addressing the underlying problems that underpin the issues at hand, we are only trying to scratch the itch and not kill the virus.

Finally, the parallel development of bureaucratic expansion and political dynasty entrenchment share an identical timeline in history, demanding fuller understanding and critical analysis of the implications that bureaucracy and political dynasties, or vice versa, have on each other and how their relationship influences policymaking and governance in the course of our history.

RECOMMENDATIONS

There are two levels of recommendations I wish to make in this paper: the academic and research level, and the programmatic level.

For academic and research interest purposes, it is worthy to pursue studies looking into the history of policy prescriptions of those perceived to belong to a political dynasty in terms of policy impact on public interest as well as their own. This should target those elected and appointed officials for the last 15 years. The length of time is three times more than the usual cycle for policy reviews. This is to allow policy corrections in cases of policies running in conflict with existing laws and provisions in the Constitution or in cases where such policies have become untenable therefore needed reform. The study should also look at the cost and quality of those policies.

Another point of investigation is the economics of political dynasties, as SALNs of members have proved to be unreliable indicator of one’s wealth. The interest here is on ethics, accountability, and integrity of publicly elected (and appointed) officials although some may contend that this function properly belongs to the Commission on Audit.

On the pragmatic side, but still within the domain of the academe, a continuing conversation on the issues in terms of the latest in legislative efforts and constraints are strongly encouraged. The engagement and full participation of civil society organizations and the youth sector are strongly encouraged to hear their inputs to be considered for any future course of action.

Bringing around the issue to the grassroots is a worthy yet expensive undertaking. It is therefore encouraged that the Internet and social media be utilized to disseminate informational and educational materials for the public, and specific target audience, to gain a deeper understanding on the issue.  Again, the academe should lead in terms of formulating a common point for convergence for all sectors to come together and agree and propose a unified action such as pressuring Congress to pass not only an anti-dynasty bill but also the FOI, the competition, political party development, party list reform, budget reform, and electoral reform bills.

It is paramount that advocates of anti-dynasty find common ground with those in the different reform advocacies and complement each other because all these measures coming from different groups will all lead towards improving the same locus or ecosystem where we operate.

Finally, the combination of the preceding recommendations are thought to bring together the public, having familiarized with the issue at heart, into action which can be a form of pressure on Congress to legislate a definition of what constitutes political dynasty.

 

 

References

Journals

Mangahas, Joel V., and Arroyo, Dennis (2014). Improving Local Service Delivery through the Community-Driven Development Approach. Asian Review of Public Administration 25(1), pp. 56-73.

Dal Bo, Ernestro, Dal Bo Pedro, and Snyder, Jason. Political Dynasties in Review of Economic Studies (2009) 76, 115–142.

Books

Acemoglu, D. and J.Robinson. 2012. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. New York: Random House.

Acemoglu, D. and J.Robinson. 2006. Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Book Chapters

De Guzman, Raul P., Brillantes, Alex B., and Pacho, Arturo G (1988). The Bureaucracy. In Raul P. De Guzman and Mila A. Reforma (Eds), Government and Politics of the Philippines (pp. 180-206). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rebullida, Ma. Lourdes G. Genato, Serrano, Cecilia (2006). Bureaucracy and Public Management in Democracy, Development, and Governance in the Philippines. In Noel M. Morada and Teresa Encarnacion Tadem (Eds), Philippine Politics and Governance (pp. 217-248). Quezon City: UP Department of Political Science

McCoy, Alfred W. (1994). Anarchy of Families: The Histiriography of State and Family in the Philippines. In Alfred W. McCoy,  (Ed), Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the Philippines (1-27). Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Fegan, Brian (1994). Entrepreneurs in Votes and Violence. In Alfred W. McCoy,  (Ed), Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the Philippines (41-52). Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Rocamora, Joel (1995). Classes, Bosses, Goons, and Guns: Re-imagining Philippine Political Culture.In Jose F. Lacaba (Ed), Boss: Five Case Studies of Local Politics in the Philippines, Pasig: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

Published Articles

CENPEG Issue Analysis, Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy. No. 08 S. 2012

Mendoza et al, “Political Dynasties and Poverty: Chicken or the Egg” (2013). Makati City: Asian Institute of Management.

Querubin, Pablo (2011). Political Reform and Elite Persistence: Term Limits and Political Dynasties in the Philippines, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, October, 2011.

Querubin, Pablo (2010) “Family and Politics: Dynastic Persistence in the Philippines”, mimeo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Tuazon, Bobby M (2010). Six Centuries of Political Dynasties: Why the Philippines Will Forever be Ruled by Political Clans? Quezon City: Center for People Empowerment in Governance.

Other Sources

The 1987 Philippine Constitution

HB 3413, Fifteenth Congress of the Philippines, First Regular Session.

Senate Bill No. 2649

The Philippine Star, May 14, 2013.

Websites

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/308899/news/nation/phl-political-dynasties-winners-losers-in-may-13-elections).

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/293487/news/nation/anti-political-dynasty-group-seeks-to-disqualify-six-candidates

http://business.inquirer.net/192967/wash-sales-said-to-be-common-practice

http://www.rappler.com/nation/57370-anti-political-dynasty-bill-house-plenary

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/276411/news/specialreports/the-great-divide-the-politics-and-economics-of-splitting-camsur.

http://www.rappler.com/nation/57370-anti-political-dynasty-bill-house-plenary and committee records

www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/293487/news/nation/anti-political-dynasty-group-seeks-to-disqualify-six-candidates