Snapshots of our Batasan office

I attended a committee hearing yesterday with soaked socks and squishy shoes. It was raining hard and I, unfortunately, stepped on a deep puddle while walking towards the Ramon Mitra Building in the Batasan complex.

I spent the rest of the morning till some hours after lunch at the hearing of the Committee on Higher and Technical Education. They were able to pass a couple of local bills, but the controversial Magna Carta of Students was remanded back to a technical working group because of the vehement objections of A TEACHER Rep. Piamonte and Valenzuela Rep. Gunigundo, who were obviously championing the rights of school owners and administrators. Their lines go, “We cannot grant students’ rights at the expense of the rights of school owners and administrators.” “Schools have a right to exclusively determine fee increases, students or parents can just appeal to proper authority.” “School-student relationship is contractual. Academic freedom includes the right of the school to determine how to best attain their objectives.” “We cannot put private schools and state universities in the same situation. Government cannot compel private schools to give students same rights as those who are in state universities.”

Kabataan Party office in Congress Kabataan Party office in Congress

Late yesterday afternoon, we also decided to rearrange, for the fourth time I think, the few tables and chairs we have at our Batasan office. Here are some snapshots of our “make-shift” office, which is a compartment in a large room that used to be the office of the Congress security force. The room is now divided among a handful of newly-seated partylists. One of these days I’ll take a picture of our neighboring partylists’ offices. Walang laman. I don’t know kung hindi ba sila nagta-trabaho at sumusweldo lang nang walang ginagawa. Fine, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, baka sa ibang lugar nag-oopisina.

Kabataan Party office in Congress Kabataan Party office in Congress Kabataan Party office in Congress Kabataan Party office in Congress Kabataan Party office in Congress Kabataan Party office in Congress

Free Special Education Bill

This is the second bill we filed since Kabataan took its rightful seat in the House of Representatives. It’s a comprehensive measure that seeks to guarantee free and appropriate basic education to all Filipino children and youths with special needs, granted the severe shortage of public special education (SPED) facilities in the country and the lack of support from the government.

Based on the principle that children and youth with special needs have the right to participate and contribute to society, this bill seeks to ensure the equality of special children’s access to social services and self-improvement opportunities, their full participation in decisions concerning their welfare, and the possibility of their economic self-sufficiency.

Below is a brochure I prepared for the bill. Click here for the full text of the bill, H.B. 6771.

Bill Amending the Public Libraries Establishment Act of 1993

This is one of the first two bills which we filed in Congress since Kabataan was granted its seat a few months ago. It’s a bill which aims to strengthen and modernize existing public libraries in the country and to step up the efforts of establishing public libraries in all cities and municipalities in the Philippines, as well as reading centers in all barangays. Read the text of the bill, H.B. 6770, here. Below are jpeg copies of the brochure I prepared about the bill, click on the images for the larger version.

Kabataan wants government to provide free education to children with special needs

Filipino children and youth with special needs shall receive free and appropriate public education if a bill filed by a young solon pushes through. Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond “Mong” Palatino today filed House Bill 6771 or the “Free Special Education (SPED) Act of 2009” allowing free services for children and youth with special needs – from early diagnosis and intervention to basic and ongoing education.

Filipino children and youth with special needs include the gifted or talented, the mentally retarded, the visually impaired, the hearing impaired, the orthopedically or physically handicapped, the learning disabled, the speech defective, the children with behavior problems, the children with autism, and those with health problems. “Like everyone else, children and youth with special needs have the right to participate and contribute to society. As such, it is the obligation of the State to ensure the equality of their access to social services and life-improvement opportunities, their full participation in decisions concerning their welfare, and the eventual possibility of their economic self-sufficiency,” Palatino said in the bill’s explanatory note.

Citing a study by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Palatino said SPED in the country lacks basic funding to be able to properly address the needs of special children and youth. Under the HB 6771, a Bureau of SPED will be created to formulate and administrate of an appropriate curriculum and developmentally-suited programs to primarily achieve functional literacy of the students/children with special needs and ensure their integration to society. The SPED bureau shall also ensure adequate and free medical assistance to these children, including those essential to their rehabilitation like therapy, psychometric assessments and medical examinations.

Full text of HB 6771 here.