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
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
A grateful Macapagal-Arroyo immediately gave to Roco the most
sought-after department after public works and highway – the
Department of Education (DepEd).
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
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
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
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
There is no denying however the credibility that Roco enjoys,
made even higher by the controversies that surrounded his
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
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
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.