Thursday, September 15, 2005

School Droputs

Posted by Yvonne Chua 

HARD times have forced more than half a million high school students and 336,000 post-secondary students to quit school this year, according to Pulse Asia's July 2005 nationwide survey.

In addition, 168,000 elementary students did not enroll this year, the poll showed.

Lack of money for school expenses (40 percent) and tuition (35 percent) were the chief reasons given for leaving school.  Twenty-nine percent cited the student's refusal to study as reason as well.

PCIJ earlier reported that the dropout problem in high school was especially alarming among boys.

Pulse Asia, which polled 1,200 adults, also found that the controversy surrounding educational plans has resulted in the public's mistrust of pre-need firms.

About 70 percent of families that still don't own a plan say they won't buy one even if they had the money. Of this group, 41 percent say pre-need companies can't be depended on to honor the provisions.

Big pre-need companies like the College Assurance Plan and Pacific Plans have failed to pay many planholders, especially those owning traditional plans, their full benefits.

Pulse Asia said only a tenth of households have at least one family member who has or had an education plan.

 Read Pulse Asia's full report.

Marcos Legacy

Viewpoint : Fire sale

Juan Mercado
Inquirer News Service


Ilocos Norte Rep. Imee Marcos tacked that shingle on her tattered crusader's credentials after she skipped to Singapore to avoid the impeachment vote. This "failure of judgment" stemmed from love for mother, she murmured.

Marcos reasonably notes that Imelda backs President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Right, greater love than this no woman has than to mortgage a congressional vote to bury dear old dad in Libingan ng mga Bayani [Heroes' Cemetery].

"Not for Sale" is also her mama's slogan. The former first lady told BBC she'd sue a cash-strapped regime if it auctioned an estimated $10 million (P560 million) worth of jewelry. These were seized from the Marcoses after People Power I sent them scampering to Hawaiian exile. "Some are family heirlooms," she explained to The Independent. "I'm praying for their return."

That may put calluses on Madame's knees. Three batches of precious stones were seized. One batch was recovered in MalacaƱang. Worth $9 million, the Roumeliotes collection was seized in March 1986 from a fleeing Greek national. US customs officers impounded jewels in "32 to 34 Louis Vuitton cases" when the Marcoses disembarked in Honolulu.

Current plans set an auction in Geneva this November, the peak season for jewelry sales there, or May 2006. But experts from Christie's and Sotheby's auction houses are due to assess the stones stashed in the vaults of the central bank.

The trove includes a Persian-style necklace studded with more than 100 carats of pink and canary diamonds. Another bracelet, crafted by Bulgari, has a 30.7-carat stone embedded in the center. That is appraised at $800,000.

"The government has not shown any proof the funds used to purchase them were ill-gotten," Imelda protested to Reuters. But the Presidential Commission on Good Government scoffs that the Supreme Court has upheld the seizures.

"'Tis plate of rare device and jewels / Of rich and exquisite form, their values great, /And I am something curious, being strange / To have them in sale stowage," Shakespeare notes in "The Comedy of Errors."

As in other Imelda sallies, there'll be varied reactions to this fire sale. That's guaranteed by what former Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew called, in his memoirs "The Singapore Story," the Marcoses' "penchant for flamboyant frivolity in a country of desperate poverty."

Filipinos have "a soft forgiving culture," he wrote. "Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos, who pillaged his country for 20 years, still be considered for a national [hero's] burial."

"Imelda had a penchant for luxury," Lee adds. "When they visited Singapore, they came in two DC-8s, his and hers... Like Hollywood melodrama, these could have happened only in the Philippines."

"Even the devil can participate in the auction," says Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Commissioner Ricardo Abcede. "She can bid for the jewels in an open market."

The PCGG, in fact, under the late graft-buster Haydee Yorac, won a Supreme Court decision that saw $683 million, squirreled in Marcos shell foundations abroad, returned to the national treasury.

Others will recall Supreme Court decisions that found disparity between the declared income of the Marcos couple and their properties. Some will dust off the old martial law wisecrack: "Imelda is into the mining industry. This is mine. That is mine. All is mine."

This controversy reminds me of the time I drove a United Nations colleague from the Termini in central Rome to Leonardo da Vinci Airport. As International Labor Organization economist Lim Lin Lean buckled herself, she cracked, "I didn't know you Filipinos were that rich!"

Seeing the puzzled look on my face, she explained. In her spare time, she gawked through the jewelry displays at Bulgari. Suddenly, store employees began shooing everybody out.

"It was your first lady, Imelda Marcos, who was shopping. Proletariats like us were locked out," she laughed.

"Well, diamonds are a woman's best friend," I weakly countered.

"Those of us in the cheaper sets are told to clap. The rest rattle their jewelry." But this is farce that sears. The yardstick for man's worth is measured in carats, not in his God-given nature.

"Next to a spirit of discernment, the rarest things in the world, are diamonds and pearls," Jean de la Bruyere once wrote.

Shaped by Ignatian discernment, held by Japanese captors and afflicted by World War II shortages, this Jesuit seminarian wrote about the carat-less wealth. Here are excerpts from the 1943 (?) "Jewels of the Pauper" written by Horacio de la Costa, SJ:

"We are a remarkably poor people ... even in riches of the spirit… No Shakespeare, no Cervantes has yet been born among us to touch, with immortality, that in our landscape, in our customs, which is most vital, most original, most ourselves....

"But this pauper, among the nations of the earth, hides two jewels in her rags. One of them is our music. We are one people when we sing....

"We are again one people when we pray. This is our other treasure: our faith. It gives somehow to our little uneventful days a kind of splendor, as though touched by a King....

"These are the bands that bind us together. These are the soul that makes us one... As long as there remains one mother to sing a lullaby and one priest to offer God to God, this nation may be conquered, trampled upon, enslaved, but it cannot perish. Like the sun that dies every evening, it will rise again from the dead."