Friday, September 29, 2023

Delivering Stories of Progress


FIRING LINE: Bonus bloat, learning neglect

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Okada Manila
Hotel Okura Manila
The Manor at Camp John Hay
Novotel Manila
Taal Vista Hotel
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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

The recent announcement of a substantial bonus release by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for Department of Education (DepEd) personnel underscores a troubling misalignment of priorities within the government. While P11.6 billion is earmarked for performance-based bonuses, the DepEd seems to have overlooked the urgent need for learning recovery interventions.

The Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) rightly raises concerns about the absence of dedicated programs and funding for catch-up and learning recovery interventions in the 2024 proposed national expenditure program. This glaring omission sends a disheartening message that the government is not adequately addressing the pressing issue of learning losses despite a stark reality: the Philippines struggles with one of the highest learning poverty rates in the region, where nine out of 10 children cannot read and understand age-appropriate texts by age 10.

Furthermore, the neglect of essential infrastructure development, such as the failure to complete additional classrooms under the School Building program, exacerbates the problem. The inadequate response to a shortage of 159,000 classrooms for the upcoming school year is deeply concerning, especially compared to the alarming need of 91,000 in the previous year.

In light of these critical education challenges, it is essential for the government, particularly the DepEd, to reevaluate its priorities and commit to addressing the learning crisis with the urgency it deserves. Seriously, Vice President Sara Duterte, bonuses and whole-month paid vacations for teachers do not cut it.

Threat to peace

In the wake of the recent clash in Maguindanao del Sur between the Dawlah Islamiya terror group and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Muslim Mindanao stands at a critical crossroads in its pursuit of enduring peace. This tragic event, claiming the lives of two terrorists, is a stark reminder of peace’s fragility in this region.

The 45-minute firefight in Barangay Mother Tuayan, Datu Hoffer, not only claimed lives but displaced around 40 Teduray families, leaving them in dire need of aid and revived fear. It is vital that government relief agencies swiftly step in to assist these displaced families, who have already endured years of conflict and hardship.

We earnestly appeal to local military forces and the Bangsamoro government to take preemptive actions to forestall any resurgence of violence. Security forces must maintain vigilance, ensuring the safety of all residents and preventing retaliation. Simultaneously, the Bangsamoro government must expedite humanitarian efforts to aid those affected.

This incident underscores the weight of the responsibility now on the shoulders of the Bangsamoro government to be efficient in governance and carry out inclusive peace process efforts that genuinely address the root causes of conflict, especially in indigenous peoples (IP) communities.

Collectively, we must protect the hard-fought gains of decades-long peace initiatives, affirm our unwavering commitment to a peaceful and prosperous Muslim Mindanao, and shun extremism.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email or tweet @Side_View via X app (formerly Twitter). Read current and past issues of this column at

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