Press Release
March 15, 2017

On the Confirmation of the Appointment
of Education Secretary Leonor Briones

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto

Mr. Chairman, my dear colleagues:

My nominee was my teacher at the UP College of Public Administration many moons ago. Whenever we meet, I never fail to call her "my favorite teacher," to which she replies, and always in a loud voice for everyone to hear, that I was her favorite student, which flatters me to no end.

Only later did I know that I share that distinction with many. She has thousands of other favorites.

If you distill her impressive CV into what her major callings would be, if you could put a brand to the person, you'd come up with two: Liling the Academic, and Liling the Activist.

As an academic, she teaches how to run the government. And as an activist, she can be pretty good in destabilizing one.

She is also an accountant - brilliant in examining ledgers of government offices, which was what she did as a Director in the Commission on Audit, or in monitoring T-bill spreadsheets, which was her job when she was the National Treasurer.

She is a woman of many splendored talents. Perhaps you have heard her speak. But you should hear her sing. She is a soprano with concert-level skills. Her favorite opera song these days: "Ay, Ay, Kalisud".

But whether in or out of government, as an official or as a critic, she employs the same high level of competence and commitment which makes her an effective leader of a department or an advocate of a cause.

And another good thing about her, too, is that whether she is in the civil service or in civil society, she conducts her business with civility.

If you happen to find yourself in the opposing end of a cause she has taken up, you will soon find out that while she won't mince words in ripping apart your arguments, she will not, however, tear your friendship to pieces.

This is probably why, aside from her talent, she has been able to seamlessly weave in and out of government.

Kita n'yo naman. She can be a "freedom from debt" campaigner one year, and then auction off debt papers of the Republic the next, without losing the respect that she had built for herself in the process.

There is another explanation for that. She never trades her principles for positions. Just to get entry into the corridors of power, she doesn't deposit her views at the door. She tells truth to power.

That is the same candor and frankness she tells her students to show.

I remember her telling us in class to always have a healthy dose of skepticism, but not too much that it blinds one's objectivity. To always validate what is presented, and subject numbers to the rigors of scrutiny.

So when I pointed out, time and again, DepEd's legendary, if not criminal, failure over the years to utilize its budget to build the classrooms, buy the books, and hire the teachers our children need, she knows that I learned to be inquisitive from her.

Kaya po laking tuwa ko nang si Ma'am Liling ang hinirang na Secretary of Education.

Sabi ko sa sarili ko: The era of annual SONA tales of education accomplishments without basis is over. Na ang panahon na pondo pa lang sa budget, hindi pa ginagasta, wala pang bidding, pinagyayabang na implemented na, delivered na, ay hindi na mauulit muli.

Na tapos na ang mabagal at makupad na pag-gamit ng pondo, tulad na lang halimbawa nung 2014 at 2016, na ni isang piraso ng 82,693 packages ng math and science equipment ay hindi nabili dahil ni singko ng P7.5 billion na pondo para dito ay hindi nagalaw.

Tulad na lang noong 2015, kung kailan magtatapos na ang taon, kung kailan magpapasko, at saka lamang ini-release ang P1.4 billion para sa school feeding.

So this is precisely why I am voting for the confirmation of your appointment, my dear Ma'am Liling, so that you yourself can solve the problem of underspending, which you repeatedly exposed while you were in Social Watch.

But that challenge is not yours to handle alone. It is for the whole government. It is, in fact, for the whole of us.

Nakakalula ang spending backlog sa DepEd.

2016 ended with 66,463 of funded classrooms yet to be built or completed, 34,463 newly-created teaching positions yet to be filled, 179.6 million budgeted textbooks yet to be delivered.

Mr. President, my dear colleagues.

My nominee used to give me very hard homework in class, but those pale in comparison with the assignment she's been given today. And the stakes are high. Because if she fails, the nation gets a failing grade on its most important assignment of all: to teach its children well.

With Secretary Briones at the helm of DepED, I know that we will be able, in the words of the great Pepe Diokno, "to build a nation for our children, where they will sing their own songs."

I vote for her confirmation - the only one among her allegedly favorite students to be given the chance to.

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