: Bongbong picks Sara as his education chief

By Nestor Corrales |

MANILA, Philippines — Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte will head the Department of Education (DepEd) in the incoming administration, presidential race frontrunner Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. announced on Wednesday night.

Duterte, the running mate of Marcos Jr. who is also leading the vice presidential race by a wide margin, is the first appointee announced by Marcos to his prospective Cabinet.

“Our incoming vice president has agreed to take the brief of Department of Education,” Marcos said during an address to the nation at his headquarters in Mandaluyong City.

“I asked her if she could do the job because the job of the secretary of education is hard and she agreed,” he added.

Marcos Jr. said President Duterte’s daughter would be a good education secretary because she is a mother and “she wants to make sure that her children are well-trained and well-educated.”

“That’s the best motivation that we can hope for,” he said.

The former senator said his Cabinet members would be composed of people who have the “competence and the willingness to work with the next administration,” regardless of their political color.

“In our discussion, we removed immediately what their political leanings had been, whether they were our allies or not. That’s not going to be part of the discussion,” he said.

Marcos said his team would talk to experts in various sectors to guide him in choosing his next Cabinet members.

“The economic managers are going to be critical for the next several years because of the pandemic and the economic crisis, so that is something that we are looking at very carefully,” he said.

He acknowledged that 31 million Filipinos have voted for him and heeded his call for unity.

“I am guided by that in the sense that we will continue to work for a government, an administration that gives voice to everyone who wants to help,” he said.

He said he would announce other members of his Cabinet in the coming days.

Marcos did not accept questions from the media.

Marcos Jr. earlier told the world not to judge him by his family’s past, but by his performance as an incoming Philippine president.

His spokesperson, lawyer Victor Rodriguez, issued the statement as his camp declared victory on Wednesday, saying the Filipino people have “spoken decisively” as 98 percent of the votes were already counted.

Unofficial count of the Commission on Elections transparency media server as of late Wednesday afternoon showed Marcos Jr. leading the presidential race by a wide margin with 31.09 million votes against Vice President Leni Robredo’s 14.82 million votes.

“Marcos Jr. will be the 17th president of the Philippines. In historic numbers, the people have used their democratic vote to unite our nation,” Rodriguez said.

“This is a victory for all Filipinos, and for democracy. To those who voted for Bongbong, and those who did not, it is his promise to be a president for all Filipinos. To seek common ground across political divides, and to work together to unite the nation,” he added.

He said Marcos Jr. was looking forward to working with Filipinos and international partners and organizations “to address critical issues facing the country, and to begin delivering for the Filipino people.”

After the Marcoses were ousted from power and fled into exile in Hawaii in 1986, succeeding administrations have recovered more than $600 million in secret Swiss bank accounts and other assets illegally amassed by the family.

The late dictator’s regime was marred with human rights violations, killings and massive corruption.

“To the world, he says: Judge me not by my ancestors, but by my actions,” Rodriguez said, quoting Marcos Jr.

Media relations
At a press briefing on Wednesday in Mandaluyong City, Rodriguez ignored a question from a reporter on how Marcos Jr. would face his contempt charges in the United States when he becomes president and the country’s chief diplomat.

He also did not answer another question whether the incoming president would revoke President Duterte’s Proclamation No. 319, which declared Sept. 21 as a National Day of Protest. The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared martial law on Sept. 21, 1972.

He noted though that Marcos Jr. would meet the press “anytime soon” but did not give a definite time.

He said they would improve media access to the former lawmaker, including accrediting vloggers to cover the incoming president, “to have more access to government and governance.”

However, a political scientist criticized Marcos Jr.’s and his running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte’s consistent call for unity and “babangon tayo” (we will rise again) when they never participated in any of the Comelec-sponsored debates or major discussions sponsored by mainstream media.

“They also pick and choose the media personalities who will interview them, so we really have no clue about what they really want except for the slogans and what they say,” Maria Ela Atienza said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

This avoidance of media coverage, Atienza said, might be a preview of how journalists would be treated under a Marcos-Duterte administration.

History revision
Meanwhile, reelectionist Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said he saw no need for the country’s education sector to revise anything in the history books, including the horrors of martial law during the dictatorial regime of Marcos Jr.’s father.

Gatchalian, who ran under the UniTeam senatorial slate of Marcos Jr., said the current set of history books were still factual and accurate, as these were supposedly based on accounts of the country’s acclaimed historians.

“Moving forward, I don’t see a need to revise anything. It has to be factual as what historians tell us and what experts tell us, and whatever they tell us that should be in our textbooks,” Gatchalian said.

Even with Marcos Jr. as president, whose camp has been accused of historical revisionism by trying to erase the memories of martial law from the country’s history books, Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on basic education, said the contents of the current set of textbooks might be held intact.

“For the last 30 years, DepEd has been writing or has been promulgating our curriculum. And the curriculum is based on what historians tell us. For the last 30 years, our kids have been reading history as what historians told us,” he said.