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On minimalist education and unwavering confidentiality

6 min readWith the growing outcry on a despicable and questionable monetary exploit, the recurring Vice President and Department of Education Secretary Sara Duterte has been making waves in the media for her buzzing yet alarming schemes.
Profile picture of Sophia Katherine Sarmiento

Published 8 months ago on September 26, 2023

by Sophia Katherine Sarmiento

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(Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb)

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Confidential or maybe just too special?

With the growing outcry on a despicable and questionable monetary exploit, the recurring Vice President and Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Sara Duterte has been making waves in the media for her buzzing yet alarming schemes.

Social media has also been keeping wind of several users and critics airing their concerns on the issue of ‘confidential funds.’ As far as the wind goes, the term has been going on for ages — but now it’s trending towards a direction of controversy from recent moves made by adepts.

In lieu of the noticeable changes made by DepEd for their academic institutions, this alone became another fish in the sea that seemed to go out of its way to swim towards the surface instead of staying in the deep waters.

However, it floated in sight for a reason.

While ignoring it in hindsight is too ridiculous, matters like these should never go unnoticed — especially if the crisis just keeps on piling up until it forms a mound of problems that affect all of us in the worst way possible.

Come to think of it, the zeroes along with inefficiency can attract almost anyone these days.

DepEd’s tainted classroom decoration policy

(Photo from Manila Bulletin)

(Photo from Manila Bulletin)

When I was in high school, seeing the school’s mission and vision was almost commonplace. Along with its anti-bullying campaign posters that were always reiterated to us students by the start of the school year. It’s inherently ignored most of the time, but it made me rethink how it worked and psyched up our minds subconsciously.

Bullying was — and always is — sanctionable; and even the small poster exposed over by the sides of our doorways per classroom can inhibit even a 1% chance of influence over young minds like us. And it did, for over the course of the years that went by with none to only a few cases of it being loaded straight up to the offices.

Reminiscing this small facet in my own personal education was caused by last August’s news of DepEd’s recent upbringing regarding classroom decoration policy; specifically that of visual aids, materials, and pictures of presidents smiling at the students up above the wide blackboards.

The murals painted bare on the school walls are also fated to be repainted. It goes to show how the spin in this “decor ban” is being really taken up a notch instead of all the other existing bans. This was in correspondence with the official guidelines for Brigada Eskwela, noted as DepEd Order No. 21, s. 2023.

This classroom policy entails “taking out everything” as they were deemed unnecessary by Duterte, and wanted a clean facade for the rooms. The ruling applies to “all grade levels” and considers all schools as mentioned by DepEd spokesperson Francis Bringas. While a lot of teachers and faculty members are confounded by this approach, this brings to the table all sorts of problems for young learners.

Motivate curiosity, not silliness

(Screengrab from Pilipino Star Ngayon Digital/Facebook)

(Screengrab from Pilipino Star Ngayon Digital/Facebook)

My infant niece stares very intently at a lot of stuff she’s not familiar with, including the patterns on my own shirt. She ignores those blank walls, focusing more on what can easily catch her attention and then babbles to.

Now imagine imprinting the trend of modern minimalism within classrooms painted purely with a single color — and filled with kids and young adults. As the saying goes, “Let your creativity run wild” but not in the four corners of the classroom where you’re supposed to nurture your mind.

While others may say that having bare walls is conducive to learning and preventing distractions from loud and exaggerated classroom decorations, students are still more likely to respond to what they see and deem useful.

Stripping a classroom bare is like giving more fuel to our own educational crisis in the country.

It’s like focusing on a shiny paper bill rather than a crumpled one, where the latter has gone through its ups and downs just to survive until today.

As tragic as it may seem, the educational crisis within the country still ensues from the insufficiency of well-ventilated and properly managed classrooms especially in public schools. Some still have no access to electricity — and most of them have underlying repairs awaiting to be fixed with necessary resources and funding.

If a conducive learning environment is what we want, then these physical needs must be met first with great urgency. Picking on their minds by using blank-spaced walls is like trapping them to have no sense of curiosity — and only conformity.

Instead of breeding free and critical thinking, curiosity is dumbed down to being slaves of explicit order and pre-existing beliefs. Just like how a blank wall should remain the same because they said so.

And when art or design is limited to none, its own monotony can be a problematic distraction to the external struggles everyone is facing in the present day.

Even the smallest graphical elements arranged as a display for everyone to see are relevant. It’s how design psychology works — from the most basic visual elements or letters, to the most complex message it wants to bring to its intended audience. It’s also how biases can arise and be manipulated in a very convenient way.

And yet, the quality of even the most basic education that should be offered most willingly in this country still suffers up to this day with the worst short-term solutions.

Discrepancies, no transparencies

(Photo from The Manila Times)

(Photo from The Manila Times)

If that wasn’t enough to keep the wheels going, Umbridge has another superior scheme underneath her authoritative sleeve as part of the Ministry of Magic.

Breaking generational limits and boundaries, Duterte has been the talk of the town for another non-coincidental controversy on a large heap of money being misused from their own hands.

Allegations came to light after Duterte’s budding request in a senate hearing last September 4 on the proposed budget for both the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and DepEd, including P650 million worth of confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) which were purportedly for “anti-insurgency efforts'' and to fight against the threat of students’ participation in terrorist activities. Breaking it down, P150 million was meant to go towards DeEd; and the rest of the P500 million was for the OVP.

From the questionable move, suspicions didn’t die down after P125 million worth of CIF were reportedly misused and brought up by House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro; that was spent by the OVP back in December of 2022 and did not go through any legal appropriation, despite inconsistent claims.

Despite being a dubious power move, Congress approved these budget musings as easily as they did back in 2022 for their proposed budget — which is both highly questionable and unamusing to all of our ears.

Senator Risa Hontiveros refused to back down on barraging Duterte’s clapbacks and defenses of the fund allocation through social media–asking for transparency and accountability, after the latter’s accusation of Hontiveros building up needless drama.

Confidentiality over accountability

Confidential funds or CIF have existed for a long period of time, from precursory presidents and vice presidents, as part of the national budget. Its role is cemented for exceptional cases that cannot be publicly disclosed — mainly for “surveillance and intelligence” purposes.

It also poses exemptions from legal and typical proceedings set by the government. No audits, and no receipts.

Yet the question remains: where do these funds go?

Like a continuously repeating oscillating wave, their answers remain the same. It’s too confidential to discuss.

Maybe the argument can hash into two directions as to why this whole washout is controversial in the first place. There is one that leads to the same exact dead-end answer, and the other that generates suspicion because of how much the hefty amount is meant for only a specific sector.

Previous iterations of the OVP did not acquire this much amount of money during their years in service. Preceding Duterte, former VP Leni Robredo reportedly did not request any CIF in her term for the 2021 budget.

While transparency defeats the sole purpose of obtaining CIF, it doesn’t excuse the huge amount of money being released to politicians and government agencies, especially knowing that this isn’t just some money taken from someone — it is the taxpayers’ money.

Valuing confidentiality over accountability can just straight-up equate to incompetence and inability. Public servants, leaders, and politicians are meant to serve the people and the country — not the other way around.

We’ve yet to conclude where these funds would be put to use — or if its stupendous amount can be reflective of potential changes that would benefit the country for its entirety. The debates, arguments, and further hearings can drive on for either side, as long as it’s taken with a grain of salt.

But alongside fragments and cracks within the educational system, this is not taught explicitly inside a classroom — nor the awareness that should come when scrutinizing servant leaders instead of patronizing or treating them as some superior form of being.

It’s never too late to react proactively and spread awareness of societal and government inconsistencies because this doesn’t directly affect those in position. It greatly affects those down the hierarchy and the ordinary person, who can also just be a simple student vying for knowledge and change the country they live in.

And it definitely affects all of us.

Duterte

Confidential Funds

DepEd

No-Decor Policy

OVP

CIF

Profile picture of Sophia Katherine Sarmiento

Sophia Katherine Sarmiento

Blogs Writer

Sophia Katherine Sarmiento is a Blogs Writer at TomasinoWeb. Sophia is an applied physics major and covers endless spectacles in both political and social commentaries. She writes with great enthusiasm for certain advocacies and inserts several metaphors out of nowhere for the purpose of imagery. She enthuses herself in graphic design and digital art in her free time, and loves spending a cozy hour with friends and family over different types and brands of coffee.

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