Monday, June 25, 2007

Dropouts take DepEd alternative

MANILA, Philippines -- You don’t have to be a world boxing champ in order to pass the Department of Education’s Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) test and get a high school diploma.

You can avail yourself of the DepEd’s Alternative Learning System (ALS), a practical option to the existing formal instruction for out-of-school youths and adults aged 16 years and over.

Since 2004, out-of-school youths have enrolled at the nearest DepEd school division between June and November, and attended the ALS sessions where they are given (or allowed to photocopy) modules for self-learning. In some centers, teachers or facilitators conduct reviews for the A&E test which is given in February every year.

A&E exam results are usually out in May, just in time for ALS graduates to enroll in college or apply for overseas jobs because now they have a high school diploma.

Out of 35,404 takers of the high school A&E test this year, 10,887 passed, according to the DepEd website.

ALS Quezon City division coordinator Alejandra Mondoñedo has seen the program grow from a literacy-cum-livelihood project in the 1970s to what it is today: An alternative and practical option which allows school dropouts to complete elementary and high school education outside the school system.

Mondoñedo, who turned 65 this year, remembers supervising vocational courses, like cooking, cosmetology and sewing, at the Don Alejandro Roces Sr. Science and Technology High School on Roces Avenue in Quezon City.

A million stories

“Our students in the past were mostly working mothers and maids. When they enroll, they not only learn a skill, like cooking, how to give a manicure and pedicure, we make sure they also learn how to read and write,” Mondoñedo says.

A devoted teacher, she has a million stories about her “alaga”, which is what she calls the students she has met and helped through the years. They include men and women in their 20s and 30s who are too embarrassed to go back to regular school, young stars -- some of whom would come straight from taping at nearby ABS-CBN or GMA 7 -- maids, seamen, sidewalk vendors and yes, even children of congressmen.

She shares some of their stories with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of

“Vicente,” 38, has left the country many times to work as a seaman. But in 2005, he was asked to get off the ship. Reason: The company found out he had a fake high school diploma.

Mondoñedo says it was Vicente’s wife who first came to see her to ask about enrolling a family member in ALS.

“I asked if she had brought her son. She was not answering. Finally, she said, ‘Ma’am, hindi anak. Asawa ko po ang mag-aaral. Nasa labas siya. Ayaw pumasok at nahihiya. Baka daw siya ang pinakamatanda sa klase (It’s not my son, it’s my husband who will go to school. He’s outside. He doesn’t want to come in because he’s ashamed to be the oldest one in class),’” she recalls.

Mondoñedo suggested then that the couple first observe the class. When Vicente saw there were four other people in their 30s, he decided to enroll.

“He made five good friends. Only three passed the A&E test. Vicente was one of them. But he was not able to attend the graduation because he already got a job as a seaman,” she says.


Then there’s the story of Amelia, who became pregnant when she was in third year high school. She was 24 years old and a working mother of two when she realized that in order to get a good job, she needed a college degree. But in order to go to college, she had to finish high school. She, however, didn’t want to go back to regular school. She would feel out of place with classmates 10 years her junior.

She enrolled in ALS at the Don Alejandro Roces Sr. Science and Technology High School and would sometimes bring one of her children to class because she couldn’t find a baby-sitter. She passed the A&E test in 2005 and is currently enrolled at the Jose Rizal University taking up marketing.

In appreciation, she wrote a testimonial to the ALS, which Mondoñedo showed the Inquirer: “I’m very thankful for programs helping people who cannot afford to go to regular school. People who [have lost] their hopes and dreams because of wrong actions. I also thank our beloved teacher whose patience and support [enabled] students to reach their goals,” Amelia wrote.

Then there’s Roberto, 25, a TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority)-trained beautician who has won a lot of hair competitions. He was so good with hair, he caught the attention of Ricky Reyes who hired him as a trainer in his beauty school.

Roberto, a third year high school dropout, had a sibling working in Ireland, who wanted him to work there as well. But because Roberto didn’t have a high school diploma, he couldn’t apply for a job.

His case was referred to Mondoñedo by another hairdresser she had helped. Roberto attended the ALS sessions, passed the A&E exam last year and is now preparing to leave for Ireland because he landed a job as a beautician in a hotel.


There’s Laurence, who was 36 when she first enrolled at ALS. She had already worked seven years as a domestic helper in Taiwan. She came home, used part of her savings to take a six-month care-giving course so she could go back to Taiwan and work there, this time as a caregiver. She passed the required TESDA exam, but she couldn’t get a job abroad without a high school diploma.

She heard about the A&E test, took it without attending the ALS and failed. The following year, she attended the ALS sessions, took the A&E test and this time, she passed.

“We also had a sidewalk vendor, who would leave his basket of Chippy and Storck outside the room and attend the sessions. He wants to become a barangay tanod and one of the requirements was a high school diploma,” Mondoñedo says.

Show biz folks

Then, of course, there are the show biz folks. Actor Mat Ranillo III enrolled at least two of his children in the ALS on Roces Avenue. Alma Moreno enrolled one of her kids in the ALS in Parañaque City.

Angelika de la Cruz was an ALS student in Malabon and passed her A&E test in 2003. Janus del Prado was an ALS student at Roces and passed the A&E test in 2005.

“Janus was a good student. He made friends, attended birthday parties and even brought food,” Mondoñedo says, adding that sometimes, their school can be as star-studded as the two networks nearby.

But not all show biz personalities finish the course or pass the exam, she notes. Those who stay long enough to graduate realize that show biz is fleeting and that sooner or later, they would need another profession.

Need for diploma

“We’ve had hotel singers, band members, even ‘Japayukis’ who have attended ALS. They dream of becoming professionals. To reach that goal, they would need a high school diploma,” she says.

It doesn’t matter why they stopped school, if they work or stay at home, not even if they’re rich or poor. Mondoñedo believes they can get a high school diploma if they study hard and attend the ALS sessions.

A few years ago, the school principal, who was then new, called her attention to an ALS student who came to school in dreadlocks and wore earrings.

“The principal told me: ‘Can you please ask him to cut his hair and not to wear earrings to school? It’s not the correct dress code,’” Mondoñedo narrates.

“Sabi ko pag pinutulan mo ’yan ng buhok, wala na siyang livelihood (If we ask him to cut his hair, we would be depriving him of his livelihood). After class, he goes straight to Timog and plays with a band.”

(For information on DepEd’s Alternative Learning System, 635-5193 and 632-1361 loc. 2083.)
By Elvira Mata - Inquirer

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Move to defer bgy. polls shot down

By: Bernadette E. Tamayo - Journal
SENATE Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. rejected a proposal from the House of Representatives to postpone the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections from the fourth Monday of October this year to the second Monday of October in 2008.

He said the people should not be deprived of their right to pass judgment on barangay and SK officials and to elect their replacements for the good of the community.

“The elections should be held as scheduled. It’s not good to allow bad barangay and SK officials to have a free ride for roughly another term while the good ones deserve a renewal of their mandate,” Pimentel said.

The deferment of the twin elections is contained in House Bill 6116, filed by Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas, who said the government cannot afford to spend a huge amount of money less than six months after the mid-term congressional and local elections last May 14.

Gullas said the barangay and SK elections will cost anywhere from P2.8 billion to P3.3 billion. Only P2 billion is earmarked under the 2007 national budget.

Pimentel however said money should not be made as an excuse to postpone the elections.

“In the first place, the Arroyo government keeps on saying that the inflow of government revenues has substantially improved due to the implementation of
tax reforms,” he said.

He said the Commission on Elections should make do with the P2 billion funding and adopt measures to minimize the cost of the political exercise. Local government units may also be requested to help defray the cost of the elections out of their Internal Revenue Allotment.

He said the postponement of the SK elections has brought about an awkward and anomalous situation where incumbent youth council officials are way above the 15 to 17 age bracket.

“It is unfair for the people to let village officials stay in office without the benefit of election even if they are not discharging their duties properly, or worse, taking advantage of their office for personal gains,” Pimentel said. “Any deferment of the elections and consequent extension of term will be seen as a reward for the barangay and SK officials for favors that they might have done for the administration, especially in past political exercises.”

Monday, June 18, 2007

GMA signs anti-red tape bill

New law seeks to prevent graft, impose stiff penalties


President Arroyo has signed Republic Act No. 9485, a law that seeks to cut bureaucratic red tape, prevent graft and corruption, and impose stiff penalties on violators, Malacanang said yesterday.

RA 9485 or the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007, signed last June 2, adopts simplified measures to expedite transactions in all government agencies, including local government units and government-owned and-controlled corporations.

The new law requires government offices to adopt fixed deadlines for the completion of transactions and regularly assess and upgrade their frontline services. It also makes heads of government agencies, accountable to the public in rendering fast, efficient, convenient, and reliable services.

"Towards this end, the State shall maintain honesty and responsibility among its public officials and employees, and shall take appropriate measures to promote transparency in each agency with regard to the manner of transacting with the public," the law read.

The passage of the anti-red tape law comes amid international surveys showing the foreign perception of the Philippines as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Surveys have shown a high level of concern that the unnecessary complexity of procedures and delay in implementing them have created rolls of red tape in the country.

Under RA 9485, government agencies are required to work on any application for any privilege, right, permit, reward, license, concession, or for any modification, renewal or extension within five working days in simple transactions and 10 working days in complex cases.

The number of signatories in any document will be limited to a maximum of five signatures, which represent officers supervising the office.

Any denial of application shall be fully explained in writing to the client within five working days from receipt of request.

If an agency fails to act on an application or request for renewal of permit, license, or authority, these shall automatically be extended until a decision or resolution is rendered on the application for renewal.

The law also requires government agencies to do regular time-and-motion studies, and undergo evaluation and improvement of transaction procedures.

Government offices must likewise establish their service standards or a Citizen’s Charter in the form of information billboards.

The billboards, posted at the main entrance of offices, will list the procedures, the persons responsible for each step, the maximum time for each step, the documents and fees required in each step, and the procedure for filing complaints.

They will also set up a public assistance/complaints desk in all their offices, while all employees shall be provided with an official identification card which should be visibly worn during office hours.

All agencies providing frontline services shall be subjected to a report card survey to be initiated by the Civil Service Commission (CSC), in coordination with the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP).

Under the law, violators will be punished and fixers held criminally liable while whistleblowers will be granted immunity.

Light offenses -- such as refusal to accept or act on applications or requests, attend to clients or render services, or imposing additional irrelevant requirements -- will merit a 30-day suspension on the first offense; a threemonth suspension on the second; and dismissal and disqualification from public service on the third.

Grave offenses, such as "fixing" or colluding with "fixers," will merit dismissal and perpetual disqualification from public service.

"Fixers" face a maximum of six years’ imprisonment or a fine of R200,000.

The law takes into effect 15 days following its publication in two national newspapers. Those performing judicial, quasi-judicial, and legislative functions are excluded from the coverage of this Act.

The CSC, in coordination with the DAP, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, shall promulgate the rules and regulations within 90 days from effectivity of the law.