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Unforgivable

It’s one thing for desperate politicians to attempt to conscript children in their anti-government protest actions because they can’t seem to convince any adults to join their cause anymore. It’s quite another when the administrators of the schools that these children attend, the people who have been entrusted with the care and education of very young, impressionable minds, allow this shameless and dangerous partisan politicking—while not fully informing the parents that their kids have been enlisted in such efforts.

The administration of the Catholic-run St. Scholastica’s College in Manila has been getting a lot of online flak after some politicians allegedly used pre-teen school to attack the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. Photographs showing the underage school kids displaying placards accusing Duterte of being a dictator went viral in social media, as has the complaint of at least one parent of two students aged 14 and 15 has denounced the nuns of St. Scho for enlisting the school children in the partisan political effort.

At the center of the controversy is Senator Risa Hontiveros, who visited the school and posed with the placard-wielding children, who were supposedly participating in a “Youth SONA [State of the Nation Address] 2017” last July 18 at the school’s campus. Hontiveros even posed with some of the kids, who were described in various captions as supporting the senator’s opposition to the Duterte administration.

The complaining parent, who identified himself as Ryan Alingarog, accused St. Scholastica College president Sister Mary Frances Dizon, OSB, of “maliciously misinforming” parents to give permission to attend the anti-Duterte rally at the school, which they thought was an ordinary activity.

“Can you please ask Senator Hontiveros to stage a protest action on her own and not to include our children?” Alingarog wrote. “Why are you using our children?”

The complaining parent, in an expletive-laced social media post, accused the Benedictine sisters at the school of not taking into consideration the consequence of exposing their children to partisan politics. He said Dizon and her fellow administrators exposed their children to online “bashing” because they could be mistakenly identified as endorsers of Hontiveros’ anti-Duterte politics.

“I am an educated individual, I also graduated from a Catholic school. But my school protected us from politics. They only taught us values, gave us the tools, the knowledge so that in the future we will know how to decide,” he wrote.

Now, I went to a school where political activism, especially the anti-government kind, was tolerated by school administrators. But I think even the University of the Philippines would not defend the use of children below the age of 18 to participate in student protests, simply because they are too young to fully appreciate the issues involved and too easily swayed by their teachers and school administrators.

As one pundit noted, what Hontiveros and the St. Scho administrators did is the educational equivalent of the conscripting of child warriors by Islamic terrorists or Communist cadres. It is, in a word, unforgivable.

* * *

A Department of Trade and Industry order seeks to make it more difficult for imported cement to enter the Philippines. Some people fear that DTI’s Department Administrative Order 17-02/05 may force cement prices, currently below P200 a bag, to go up to their 2015 level of more than P300, because of the continued need for cement and the expected demand spike that will be triggered by the P8 trillion Build, Build, Build infrastructure program of the Duterte administration.

Critics of the order have noted that it could drive cement importers out of the market, even if local “manufacturers” (who also import cement from the same sources abroad as the importers) cannot possibly meet local demand. The net effect will only be windfall profits for the manufacturers from the expected shortage.

At the heart of the dispute is the requirement by the DTI for importers to secure import clearance certificates for their products, which is not imposed on local manufacturers even if they also import. A graft complaint has already been filed against a DTI undersecretary, who stands accused of pressuring the department’s Bureau of Product Safety to impose the requirement on importers while exempting local manufacturers from it.

At present, local demand for cement is believed to stand at 600-millions bags a year. Industry watchers say there is simply no way for local manufacturers to meet this demand without causing a severe shortage and returning to the regime of high prices of the previous years, when importation was curtailed.

The DTI order must be reviewed so as not to put a cramp on the current building boom. When the Duterte administration causes demand for cement to spike because work on its infrastructure projects are starting all over the country, we may have see a severe shortage of cement that will stop construction in its tracks.

Topics: Jojo Robles , Unforgivable , St. Scholastica’s College , President Rodrigo Duterte , Senator Risa Hontiveros , Youth SONA [State of the Nation Address] 2017 , Department of Trade and Industry , cement
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