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La Vida Roco

By Aubrey SC Makilan
Bulatlat.com/reposted by Kaiba News and Features

Son of a farmer and a public school teacher, former Senator and Education Secretary Raul S. Roco was born in Naga City. He finished high school at the age of 14 in Ateneo de Naga. At 18, he graduated magna cum laude at San Beda College, where he later obtained his Law degree as Abbot's Awardee for Over-all Excellence. He was the editor of The Bedan, the college’s student publication and was the one who wrote the lyrics of the San Beda Hymn.

Roco took up his Master of Comparative Law as a university fellow at the University of Pennsylvania where he was cross-enrolled at Wharton for Multinational Studies.

He was executive producer of Lino Brocka's award-winning movie Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang.

Roco was the youngest Bicolano delegate to the Constitutional Convention as well as the youngest president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) from 1983-1985. He drafted the Study Now Pay Later Plan when he was still one of the legal staff of Sen. Ninoy Aquino.

As representative of Camarines Sur’s second district, the Ford Foundation and the University of the Philippines Institute of Strategic and Development Studies regarded Roco as first in over-all performance among legislators of the Eighth Congress.

Roco authored the Women in Nation Building Law, the Nursing Act, the Anti-Sexual Harassment Law, the Anti- Rape Law, and the Child and Family Courts Act. He prioritized women in the DECS literacy program. He was later called the "Honorary Woman."

As an oppositionist during the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada, he was awarded the Bantay Katarungan Award for his "exemplary performance.” The trial, which exposed the corrupt and immoral Estrada presidency, ignited the people’s anger and paved the way to the uprising that toppled Estrada and installed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

A grateful Macapagal-Arroyo immediately gave to Roco the most sought-after department after public works and highway – the Department of Education (DepEd).

Under fire
In May of 2002, DepEd employees protested against Roco for allowing the use of DepEd chauffeur Pablito Aquino, to be the personal driver of his wife. They claimed that under government rules, the use of a DepEd employee by someone not connected with the department is not allowed. Roco said there was nothing wrong at all with his wife's use of his driver, or of his use of private helicopters rented for around P200,000 in two days to visit school building constructions. He added that instead of having a backup and a bodyguard, he preferred to have two drivers.

Roco again received much flak after he moved for the second time the schedule of the the “Palarong Pambansa,” a national sports festival, citing the Philippine Sports Commission’s (PSC) failure to release the P36 million budget.

Critics called Roco a killjoy and his move a “knee-jerk reaction.” Even as PSC chairman Eric Buhain’s appeal for reconsideration stating that the cancellation would mean two years without Palaro, Roco stood still with a “No” answer.

It was under also his watch that the Basic Education Curriculum (BEC), also known as the “Millennium Curriculum,” was implemented, earning him complaints from educators and students.

IBON Foundation, a research institution, criticized the BEC as catering to the needs of transnational corporations for highly skilled and technically proficient workers at the expense of nationalism. Antonio Tinio, president of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), said the DepEd rushed the implementation of the program to catch up with the full implementation of World Trade Organization agreements in 2004.

Furthermore, Tinio said that 400,000 teachers nationwide were trained simultaneously for only about a week, doubting if the teachers clearly understood the concept of the program. Even Sen. Tessie Aquino-Oreta, main author of Republic Act No. 9155 or the Governance of Basic Education Act, said that since a number of teachers then were not prepared to teach the new curriculum, the "outcome of learning" among students in public schools nationwide will be sacrificed and eventually suffer.

On Aug. 13, Roco resigned after the president endorsed the investigation of corruption charges filed against him by the DepEd Central Office Emplo­yees’ Union to the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC). He was accused of unethical practices, including the use of public funds to print DepEd posters that displayed his photo prominently.

Roco denied any misconduct and complained of being a victim of politics.

Many agreed that the posters were being used by Roco to earn personal publicity ahead of the presidential elections. That his resignation was an over-reaction. Or that Roco seized the opportunity to bolt out of the increasingly unpopular Macapagal-Arroyo government and start preparing for the 2004 elections.

On the other hand, they also believed that Roco was eased out because he was a potential rival of President Macapagal-Arroyo who at the time was still very much in the running for the 2004 elections.

Survey topnotcher
There is no denying however the credibility that Roco enjoys, made even higher by the controversies that surrounded his resignation.

He is a consistent topnatcher among presidentiables in several surveys. Among the most recent was the Social Weather Station (SWS) national survey conducted on Dec. 7-15 with a national sample of 1,200 respondents. From a list of 10 possible candidates for president, Roco emerged number one with 24%, followed by movie star Fernando Poe Jr., 21%; former media man now senator Noli de Castro, 19%; Macapagal-Arroyo, 13%; former police chief and now senator Panfilo Lacson, 6%; former broadcaster and now senator Loren Legarda-Leviste, 4%; opposition leader Edgardo Angara, 3%; Senators Franklin Drilon and Aquilino Pimentel, 2% each; and Vice President Teofisto Guingona, 1%.

In Pulse Asia’s nationwide survey among 2,400 respondents, conducted from Nov. 6- 22, Roco got 19% of the vote, Poe 17%, de Castro 16%, and Macapagal-Arroyo 12%.

Meanwhile, a recent online poll conducted by the Filipino Computer Club (FCC) in Dubai revealed that Filipinos in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have also chosen Roco. He, who was recently rumored to have fallen ill due to cancer, received an overwhelming 46% of the votes. He was followed by the president and FPJ with 22% and 13 % respectively.

The president of his own party, Aksyon Demokratiko, Roco already ran for president in 1998 and finished third behind Joseph Estrada and House Speaker Jose de Venecia. It was in fact an impressive performance considering his limited party machinery.

Despite the survey results, Roco still needs to make himself more appealing to the lower classes, where, needless to say, a huge chunk of the votes come from. His intellectual and hardworking image may be a success with the middle and upper classes but their votes could be easily wiped out by the overwhelmingly popularity of Fernando Poe Jr., even by a rival who has Noli de Castro as running mate.

His trademark campaign attire – colorful hawaiin polo shirts – will certainly be not enough to get him to Malacañang.

 

 


 

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KAIBA News & Features, P.O. Box 6126, Naga City 4400.  email: alcalara@edsamail.com.ph  Tel No. 0917 8122107 Copyright © 1999  KAIBA News & Features. All rights reserved.  Revised: January 23, 2003