Press Release
February 10, 2021

Highlights of Sen. Pia S. Cayetano's interpellation on the Inclusive Education Bill

I am happy that many of our colleagues are interested in further improving this measure.

I'd just like to reiterate [the timeline] for implementation. My concern here is very simple. When we pass this, I don't want there to be confusion or misunderstanding on the part of parents that the school in their locality will automatically be required to provide for students [with learning disabilities].

We have to be very conscious of what can transpire, how effective we can implement this within a reasonable amount of time. So in other words, I am thinking of a public school or even a very small private school. Suddenly, [the parents will] say, "Pumasa na ang batas so tanggapin nyo ang anak ko." [And the school will reply,] "Teka, wala pa kaming ganun."

So I think we need to dissect that a little bit to ensure that there is no confusion later on and then we also don't put the agencies in a situation where iba ang intention natin, iba ang intindi nila. I think we should be very clear about that.

Timelines can include how many days are we giving them to come up with that roadmap, is that 60 days, 90 days, 360 days?

No question on his honor's ability to get this done. But realistically, how does his honor assess the ability of the agencies to come up with those timelines for the roadmap. I think the roadmap itself would already be a good starting point. But having said that, again, you might want to start with attainable goals, such that, within a year's period, at the very least, every province should have 3 centers spread out in the north, in the south, in the east, in the west, maybe 4. So that, mahirap man pero medyo accessible, and medyo maaasahan.

What I am really scared of is that the parents would be expecting. Let's say there's a small private school [with 200 students]. I cannot foresee how they would, and as we know, a lot of them have closed during this time, immediately transition to a school that is capable of handling children with learning disabilities. They can, for sure, but not immediately. How do we make that happen?

My second point is the level of inclusivity. I believe his honor and I are in agreement that based on the personalized learning program that each child would have, that would also dictate what kind of socialization the child would have, how much classroom time, we know that.

But, again, I am thinking from a very simple perspective. There is a parent, ang anak niya ay may disability, feel nila discriminated. And again, I am using my own child as an example. My son had a cleft lip and palate. He never grew up to be able to express himself because he passed away before he turned one. But if he had grown up, and if he would be able to speak, he would be 'ngongo.' And we all know na pinagtatawanan ang ngongo. We all grew up with those jokes. So here's this parent excited na, "Makakapasok na ang anak ko sa eskwela at aalagaan siya, hindi siya aapihin dito..." Tapos sasabihin, "Sir, Ma'am, hindi namin kaya."

Expectations, again. Kung walang speech therapist doon, kung hindi naka-intervene sa batang yun at the early age.

My point is, again, expectations and clarity on what level of inclusivity. It's not to discriminate [against] the child, but to ensure that the necessary steps are taken so their shortcomings or their disabilities can be addressed.

We also need to educate the parents, the community na do not be afraid if ilagay ang anak niyo sa special class kasi doon ang opportunity for the child to shine. So there's just so much work to be done. I am just really afraid that without clear timelines - and later on, let's be sure that the communication also is included also in the responsibility of agencies. They must communicate what will the expectations be within the year of implementation, within 3, 5 years because it's really a process.

Final point is human resources... Sen. Joel Villanueva correctly pointed out that what we did during the Doktor Para sa Bayan periods of interpellation and amendments, and I believe it was one of my initiatives, klaruhin natin, let's break it down what exactly do we need? I am for the increase of the health human resources not just the doctors, because it's not enough.

I know his honor's bill includes the whole range of professionals that will support the child. But instead of just saying these are the professionals, we need to ensure that CHED is also providing the courses. How do we encourage more doctors to become developmental pediatricians? Ilan ba talaga kailangan natin? Should we say at least one for each province?

We can provide scholarships for those who will work in government for the next 10 years and, for that matter, all the other specialized fields. We need to go back to CHED and see if these areas, educational programs are available, and if they are also available in those province.

We might say okay naman ang Metro Manila, there's SPED teaching courses, there's occupational therapy, physical therapy. Paano sa Mindanao, sa Visayas? Wala? And the law does not distinguish. We want to ensure that all of the families have access to this.

And I'd like to point out, it will go back also to our salary structure and budget because from what I know, most of our physical therapists dream of going out of the country, just like the nurses. So paano?

That's what I meant when I said I don't want to provide false promises. I know in this chamber, that is the farthest thing in our minds, but that's why I feel it is very important to clarify what we intend to achieve with the bill, including timelines so precisely we can manage the expectations so that what we produce is exactly what we said we would produce.

His honor is at the frontlines. Ang-sipag mag-hearing... He knows how many problems we have on the quality of education. And a big percentage of the reason for that is also the quality of teacher education. And so now, we're going a step further, education for children with special needs pa.

The problem gets deeper and deeper, and we have not even been able to solve the quality of education for the average student who doesn;t have learning disability, what more for those that have?

Having said that, of course we fully support, and this is an amazing bill. But that's where our interventions come in and I thank his honor for his patience in hearing out the concerns that we have presented to him.

Thank you.

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