Where has idealism gone?

All the while, I thought that Budget and Management Secretary Butch Abad was working for the poor. He gained respect not only as a lawmaker, but also for his dedication to serve government as secretary of education and agrarian reform.

We admired him for his principled stand on issues affecting marginalized sectors, although fellow politicians always beat him in the end game. In fact, he had to sacrifice his cabinet posts, if only to show that he wasn’t corrupted by power.

He had lived long enough during the turbulent years in this country as a social activist. He may not have been identified with the militants, but his social democratic leaning was gearing towards left-of-center and, for that, he was acceptable as an activist-cum-politician because he represents a new breed of lawmakers whose interests are solely based on service to the people.

But are we seeing a different Butch Abad these days?

In preparing the national budget, Mr. Abad was instrumental in proposing a cut in the subsidy to the state universities and colleges (SUCs), which was supposedly unacceptable for a man who had once advocated education for all.

His office even issued a misleading statement saying that the budget for the SUCs was actually higher by P2.4 billion or 11.3 per cent than its 2010 budget, primarily due to the implementation of the Salary Standardization Law III.

Yet it was clear in President Aquino’s August 23 budget address that he had allocated for the country’s SUCs P23.4 billion, compared to P23.8 billion budget for 2010.

It looks like a small amount, but the proposed budget would decrease by as much as 23.4 per cent the budget for 25 out of the 112 SUCs.

Alright, the Aquino administration has programmed an increase in the teachers’ salaries. But that doesn’t justify government’s slash in the budget of the SUCs, which are the only centers of higher learning for students who couldn’t afford the likes of La Salle and Ateneo, which, incidentally, is the alma mater of Butch Abad and the President. Ateneo prides itself honing its students to be “men for others.”

As a brilliant nationalist and lawyer, Mr. Abad should realize that education is a right, and the 1987 Constitution mandates that the state provide adequate education to its people – rich or poor.

Yet, in the field education, we find grave disparity among the various classes in this society.  Only a few can afford the luxury of being known to be “Atenistas,” not because they lack the mental competence, but because they cannot afford tertiary education in the vast campuses of the private schools, which have become exclusive to “haves” and an anathema to the “have-nots.”

We just hope that Mr. Abad has not become insensitive to the plight of the poor, even if he has in his hand the power of determining the allocation of funds in the entire bureaucracy.

Perhaps, Abad and company decided to increase the budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) by as much as 123 per cent just because government finally realized that it was best to be known as populist, like the administration of former President Joseph Estrada.
Or they have grown insecure like former President Arroyo that they have no option but to continue increasing the military’s budget if only to survive for the next six years.

But this early, the budget planners of the Aquino administration are but poor copycats of the budget architects of the previous regimes.

Now, there is restiveness in the campuses that provide public education for all, just because our respected leaders have failed to realize that they were doing a great disservice to our Filipino youth, many of whom have adhered to the principles and idealism that Mr. Abad and company had once espoused. Joel Paredes

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