09 March 2007

A letter to Doming

TODAY, I wrote my former boss, Dominador "Doming" Alarkon, Jr., the following letter relative to the QUEEN Project.

Doming used to head the Community Affair and Development Communications unit at the Provincial Capitol under then Governor (and now 2nd district congressman) Luis Villafuerte. As DevCom chief, he publishes Vanguard, a Capitol publication for which I wrote news stories and feature articles right out of college.

I'm not sure if he has already retired from government. But it appears he now spends part of his time publishing and editing the Peninsula Monitor, and his elegant pen still obviously in awe of the former Capitol kingpin.

I would like to take exception to the news item “QUEEN project is poll scam” that appeared in your February 28, 2007 issue.

May I underscore the following facts relative to the QUEEN project:

1. It is the School Board’s long-term institutional response to the 67% completion rate in city public schools. This means that presently, only 67 out of every 100 Grade I pupils that enrol in our public schools end up graduating from elementary. I can therefore assure you this is very different from the scholarships being extended by congressmen like Rep. Luis R. Villafuerte which are person-driven and are therefore more of the palliative type.

2. Under Resolution No. 2007-001, the Board allocated the initial amount of P3,000,000 to support this initiative. It is duty-bound to continue funding the project until such time that Naga attains 100% completion, in line with the Philippine government’s commitment to the UN General Assembly in signing the Millennium Declaration last 2000.

3. Notwithstanding the Constitutional provision guaranteeing free public education up to high school, many are still unable to enjoy this right precisely because public education is not really “free”; parents need to pay PTA fees and other charges meant to defray the school’s operating expenses which the national government cannot fully support. I should know because all my school-age children are enrolled in Naga’s public schools.

4. Finally, Naga’s 67% completion rate, and Camarines Sur’s 61% (as of 2004) are figures that can stand by themselves; no amount of spin can change these facts. For reasons of poverty and probably parental negligence, 1 out of every 3 in Naga, and 2 out of every 5 in Camarines Sur are being left behind. This is not acceptable. The QUEEN project is Naga’s response to this problem, mainly by making public education as free as possible to those who are financially distressed, and by making local communities realize the problem exists and that they are part of the solution. I don’t know what Camarines Sur’s response is.