Sara Duterte

[Pastilan] Inday Sara Duterte’s top-secret curriculum

Herbie Gomez

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[Pastilan] Inday Sara Duterte’s top-secret curriculum

Guia Abogado/Rappler

'We need more intelligence in government...and not intelligence funds which, quite frankly, have become synonymous with the love of money'

What we are seeing is a mind-boggling drama of the P650 million in confidential and intelligence funds squeezed into the 2024 budgets of the Office of the Vice President and Department of Education (DepEd).

We’re watching a delicate dance between revealing the truth and pulling off sneaky maneuvers, just like witnessing a tightrope acrobat twerking while juggling watermelons. Can you believe the audacity?

Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte is spinning the narrative like a seasoned magician, pulling rabbits out of hats. She’s weaving a tale of young minds being turned into patriotic superheroes against rebels, terrorists, and what-have-you.

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For 2024, she aims again for P500 million in intelligence funds for the OVP and an additional P150 million for the DepEd.

She asserts that education is interwoven with national security, a broad statement we’ll reluctantly accept.

She adds that we must mold children “who are patriotic, children who will love our country, and who will defend our country.” Nice sound bites.

But exactly how DepEd spent the Vice President’s intelligence funds to mold patriotic and country-defending children since she assumed her post in 2022 remains a mystery.

Did these funds find their way to local school boards? I’ve spoken to a principal and some teachers who said they are unsure about the specific ways in which the funds were spent for their school. Top secret?

When it’s time for the Vice President and concurrent education chief to unveil the specifics of these funds, we’re left capturing smoke with a butterfly net.

She introduces an unexpected guest, a “joint memorandum” emerging like a ninja in the night. It lays out ground rules, yet it’s secured more tightly than a secret recipe at a cooking competition.

The funds have found refuge within the halls of Congress, where many of us know that a select few manipulate proceedings, like puppet masters orchestrating a show. While it’s lauded as democracy in action, it’s really more like a game of political peekaboo.

I get it. Confidential and intelligence funds are the covert fuel powering the machinery of national security, law enforcement, and counterterrorism – like invisible bouncers keeping an eye on the VIP section of the nation. 

But since when did the education department people start moonlighting as a bunch of spies? The last time I checked, the Vice President’s name is not James Bond.

So, House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro steps onto the stage, questioning if our schools have transformed into surveillance zones. Are students now studying calculus or deciphering enemy messages?

Yet, DepEd offers its perspective – these funds function as superhero capes shielding against the dark forces of illegal recruitment in schools, much like Batman and Robin.

Here stands the Vice President and education secretary, center stage, vying for a substantial portion of the budget pie, as if it were the last slice at a pizza party. 

In 2022, she eyed the defense department but got the education post instead. Now, she transforms our schools into battlegrounds, securing intelligence funds along the way, courtesy of submissive legislators. Sometimes I wonder if it’s really about the post or the funds.

Ah, those intelligence funds? Imagine them stashed in a swanky office, surrounded by classified files. Indoor sunglasses? Check. Whispering secret codes to a fern? Double-check. Covert missions involving classified paper clips? Why not?

Apparently, what they have in mind is to turn our schools into secret boot camps. Forget geometry; it’s time for Intelligence Gathering 101. It seems they want to trade algebra for surveillance, with a side of ninja flips.

It’s the same story anywhere in the country where local executives are trying to get their top-secret funds approved by city councils and provincial boards. This has been going on for years. It’s an annual feast fit for budgetary gluttons, savored with the finesse of sommeliers tasting the finest wine.

Have you ever wondered how we’ve stumbled into this perplexing maze? We’re in a twilight zone where funds engage in hide-and-seek. We’ve crashed a concealed masquerade ball, with money sipping a drink while donning an invisibility cloak, and excuses grooving on the dance floor in their stylish national security pajamas.

Within this political spectacle, finding accountability is scarcer than locating a needle in a haystack. We’re right in the center of a political palabas, where explanations contort themselves like snakes attempting to perform tinikling dance moves or twist like pretzels, trying to impress Rappler senior editor Chay Hofileña during a yoga session.

And their sense of decency? It’s like an artifact from the Stone Age when people considered pet rocks the height of entertainment.

What is unfolding is a bewildering realm of politics, a real-life funhouse of illusions. Just as you think you’ve grasped the situation, they introduce secret funds and enigmatic explanations.

Imagine solving a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded. Guess what? They’re tossing us the blindfold as well!

Amid this chaos, I can’t help but think that perhaps it’s time we become more skeptical as a nation. Maybe it’s time we question these so-called “experts” and their flashy justifications. It’s all hocus-pocus. Funds are concealed, explanations dance around, and we’re left struggling to make sense of it all.

Accountability shouldn’t be as rare as a politician’s genuine smile. This nation needs to demand transparency, and the people we elect should be told that honesty isn’t a quaint relic, like cassette tapes and rotary phones.

And we need more intelligence in government, something that DepEd should be focusing on by teaching our future leaders critical thinking and how to think for themselves, and not intelligence funds which, quite frankly, have become synonymous with the love of money.

Herbie Gomez is Rappler’s regional coordinator for Mindanao.

1 comment

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  1. ET

    Thanks to Herbie Gomez for this “top secret” article. I agree with his last paragraph: “… we need more intelligence in government, something that DepEd should be focusing on by teaching our future leaders critical thinking and how to think for themselves.” Unfortunately, it seems that DepEd, under VP Sara Duterte, is selective when it comes to the application of Critical Thinking. This means that Critical Thinking is good as long as it is applied to Natural and Physical Sciences but not to Social Sciences! If Critical Thinking is applied to Social Sciences, especially History, Political Economics and Political Science, the “secret messages” of the Marcos-Duterte Disinformation Machinery will be unraveled; and this is against the “secret desires” of both VP Sara Duterte and President Marcos Jr. Rather, it seems that the best way to apply Critical Thinking is on Money Making – just as those “intelligence funds … have become synonymous with the love of money.”

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Herbie Gomez

Herbie Salvosa Gomez is coordinator of Rappler’s bureau in Mindanao, where he has practiced journalism for over three decades. He writes a column called “Pastilan,” after a familiar expression in Cagayan de Oro, tackling issues in the Southern Philippines.