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Devolution and distance learning

Milwida M. Guevara

Milwida M. Guevara

It has been almost 29 years since the Local Government Code was passed. Pained by how the concentration of powers and authority on the central government led to abuses and corruption, powers and resources were transferred to local governments. Believing that those in the trenches can deliver services more efficiently, local governments were promised to be in- charge of basic health, social welfare, tourism, school building construction, among other things. And all for good reasons. Local governments do not just understand the problems of their communities. They experience them and, if they have a good conscience, they feel accountable in solving these problems. But today, devolution remains a promise. Central government is deeply in control of decision-making and local governments continue to be sidelined. They are not integral to planning and are merely expected to implement the decisions and policies of the central government without genuine consultation. Their initiatives and innovations are stifled. Mayor Vico’s use of tricycles to bring patients and health workers to hospitals is a case in point.

It does not help any that media focus on their mistakes and inefficiency, like when a barangay captain bungles on the distribution of the SAP or violates quarantine rules. But cases of their excellence and outstanding work used to ignored, and at best, only featured in local news. Thanks to the young Mayors like Mayor Vico, Mayor Rex and Mayor Moreno, the public is getting to know them more. I keep reassuring my friends that these three do not have a monopoly of excellence, but there are hundreds of others who excel likewise, but are not known.

We just have to look at areas where there is no incidence of Covid like Concepcion, Iloilo; Bongao, Tawi Tawi, and Upi and Paglas in Maguindanao. We can also look at admiration at how local governments managed the gradual opening of their local economies with little help from the national government, like how Vigan, Agoo, San Fernando (La Union) and Iloilo City did it. We can also look at the experiences of areas that used to be danger spots such as Basilan. The Mayors and barangay leaders watched over their flock like hawks and used their resources to ensure that the poor will be helped to survive.

So come another challenge that is brought about by the pandemic— children will not be able to go to school. But learning has to continue and it must be done at home. The goal of distance learning is herculean. Most of the children do not have access to online learning. Parents are working or unable to serve as parent-teachers. Learning modules and worksheets from kindergarten up to senior high school have to developed and delivered to every household, every week. Just thinking of how difficult it was to get the SAP delivered make us believe that this task is mission impossible. It would take the joint efforts of Superman, Ironman, and Spiderman to accomplish. Let us learn from the experience of how communities were protected from COVID 19 by local governments and harness their dedication and initiatives in crossing the next mile. Local governments are as passionate if not more passionate that the DepEd officials in making sure that distance learning works. After all, we are talking of their children, their most important constituents.

Mayor Bo Escutin of Dao, Capiz is worried sick that only 10% of the students have enrolled. It is time for him to roll up his sleeves and work with the barangays and teachers to go on a house to house campaign and encourage parents to have their children enrolled.

Mayor Hermie of San Gabriel, La Union is putting up a community radio so that his children who live in the boondocks can continue to learn. Mayor Boie Evardone of Arteche, Samar rose up from the ruins brought about by the typhoon destruction and will rebuild their community radio. I assured them that they will be helped by Mayor Ramon of Upi who successfully uses the radio for community learning.
Mayor Raul of Concepcion, Iloilo has regularly convened the principals so that a community-wide plan for learning can be implemented. Since Concepcion is COVID free, they planned for blended learning that combines face-to-face with modular instruction. Now that a one size approach was decided by DepEd, they are back in the drawing board. How do modules reach the island children who have no access to electricity and regular transport?

DepEd can demonstrate that it takes a village to raise a child. We should not have a repeat of the K-12 program where there were no instructional materials. We pray that DepEd would trust their principals and teachers to develop learning materials instead of implementing a centralized mode. After all, school-teachers have been in-charge of implementing the curriculum through all these years. There will be mistakes, but this part of devolution. And let local governments take the lead in developing a systemic program that involves not only financing, but mobilizing the entire community in ensuring that children learn—with the special ones, getting remediation. Let us recognize local governments that have competently shown that they can take care of their own. Let the controls be reserved for those who are weak and were elected because of dynasties and inefficiencies.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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