Wednesday, August 10, 2005

'What the hell is Ms Arroyo still doing in Malacañang?'

Si Conrado de Quiros ang aking pinakapaboritong opinion writer. Kung tutuusin, siya lang ang talagang binabasa kong opinion writer =D Talagang naimpluwensiyahan niya ang pagsusulat ko sa puntong sinasabi ng mga nakapagbasa ng gawa ko na mala-de Quiros raw akong sumulat....

[Weeeee.... Yabang!]

Nang mabasa ko ang kolum niya ngayon, na-guilty naman ako. Mag-isa lang akong pumunta noon ng UP para mag-UPCAT. Nag-taxi pa nga kami noon mula Philcoa sa sobrang hirap sumakay.

Awa ng Diyos, nakapasa naman.

Na-guilty naman ako. Naisip kong na-take for granted ko pala iyung pakiramdam ng mga magulang ko nang pumasa ako ng UPCAT.

Heto nga pala iyung column ni de Quiros para sa araw na ito.


There's The Rub : Crimes
Conrado de Quiros
Inquirer News Service

I GOT an insight into the crime President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo committed in the elections on my way to the University of the Philippines (UP) in Quezon City last Saturday. It was early morning and I was driving my son to the UP College Admission Test, or Upcat. The road leading to the Oblation told a story about the legions of Filipino kids who wanted a berth in arguably the best university in the country and unarguably the cheapest. Or of Filipino parents who desperately wanted to see their kids there. I was one of them.

Though it was just past 6 a.m., the road leading to the Oblation statue teemed with cars, taxis, jeepneys and kids walking along the sidewalks holding umbrellas aloft to fend off lashing rain. Traffic crawled. I reminded my son not without exaggerated drama how lucky he was to be at least riding in a car with a most solicitous father at the wheel. He laughed mirthfully. I added to this my near-obligatory parental exhortation for him to take his studies more seriously, money being hard to come by these days, and to make every centavo invested in improving his mind count. He laughed mirthfully even more.

Five hours later, I picked him up and asked him how the exam went. He said it was OK, except for the subject to which the building he took the exam in was dedicated: Math. I asked him when he would know the results, and he said that according to the exam officials it would only be in February next year.

And here's the part where Ms Arroyo comes in: The thought entered my mind that after a couple of months I could maybe call up some friends who were UP officials to ask them how my son fared. Every year, you hear parents complaining about why their children failed to make it to UP when their children reported to them having breezed through the exam. Every year, you hear parents wondering if some favoritism or discrimination creeps into the choice of who among the hundreds of thousands of youth across the country get to join the lucky few who enter academic heaven. So I thought maybe I should call up my friends so as, to paraphrase Ms Arroyo, to secure my son's grades.

The presidency and a place in UP may look like the difference between heaven and earth, but if that is so, then the heaven is not the presidency and the earth a place in UP. It is the other way around. Between acquiring power and acquiring knowledge, the more heavenly, or blissful, display of covetousness is to be found in the latter. That is the only thirst worth having, the thirst for knowledge. Not the thirst for power, though in some people that is truly beyond slaking. But easily a place in UP for one's kid takes on the proportion of winning the presidency, or indeed the lottery, for most parents in this country. It assures the best education for one's kid for five times less the price of education in an exclusive college. Of course, you won't be able to appreciate that if you can afford to stay in $20,000 suites in Las Vegas. But for most of us who live by honest toil, getting a kid to UP has "this way to paradise" written on the signposts.

I banished the thought from my mind immediately, however. I did not call up my friends, nor will I call up my friends, to know how my son fared in the Upcat for the most compelling reasons.

To be sure, if I had done so, or if I would do so, my sin would be infinitely less grave, or lethal, than Ms Arroyo's. One, there is no ban against calling up UP officials to inquire as to how your kid did in the entrance exams. There is only propriety to prevent you from doing it. But there is a very clear ban against a President calling up an official of the Commission on Elections to inquire on how one did in the elections. There is the law to stop you from doing that.

Two, my friends are not likely to construe my inquiry as an appeal for them to do something to improve my son's chances. And even if they did, they would not do it, they would reprove me for insinuating so. But former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, who proudly announces he learned his dirty tricks from Ferdinand Marcos' election hatchet man Leonie Perez, is a known blackguard. When Ms Arroyo called him up, it was with the clear understanding that he would undertake to improve Ms Arroyo's chances at the polls.

Three, I would not dream of asking them to change the scores. And they are not in a position to cheat anyway. Ms Arroyo did not just dream it, she did it. There is the tape to show the conversation was a totally dishonest one, a plot to defraud the voters. Garcillano was in a position to cheat, and did.

These monumental differences notwithstanding, I did not call up my UP friends, nor will I call them up, because it is simply not right to do so. Call it "delicadeza" [sense of propriety], call it decorum, call it a sense of right and wrong, call it all of the above, but one simply doesn't do these things. It is wrong, it is unfair, it is, however borderline, a form of cheating. It is unfair to the other parents who have no access to UP and cannot make the same requests. It is unfair to the other kids who, all other things being equal, may be discriminated against and miss a crack at the bat. It is unfair to my friends upon whom I will impose unduly, to my school, which by the way is not UP and from which I did not graduate, and to myself for stooping low. I do something like this, what business do I have talking about right and wrong and suggesting to the youth in particular how they might comport themselves?

I believe in the integrity of the Upcat. And like the other parents, I will just have to be content to await its results, albeit with bated breath. I can only wish my son the very best of luck.

Now my question, which I suppose is also the question of the hundreds of thousands of parents whose kids have taken, or are taking, the Upcat, and demand absolute honesty from it because their lives depend upon it, is:

What the hell is Ms Arroyo still doing in Malacañang?

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