By Mortz C. Ortigoza
BAYAMBANG - The Philippines education secretary deplored that school buildings in Pangasinan province are either demolished or burned.
Mrs. Filipinas Alcantara, president of the Parents Teachers Association here, said Secretary Armin Luistro told her in meeting last December in Manila that of all the schools under the Department of Education, the most problematic he faces is the Bayambang Central School especially the fate of the more than a hundred years older Gabaldon building.
“Sabi niya ang pinaka problema niya sa buong Pilipinas ay Pangasinan, Bayambang particularly ang pinaka problema. Kasi sinasabi po kasi niya kung hinde dinedemolish ang Gabaldon sinusunog. Iyan iyong mismo lumabas sa bibig ni Luistro,” she stressed.
The central elementary school was razed by fire in a suspicious manner in the wee hour of June 2012.
Alcantara said she just received a letter from Maria Serena Diokno Chairman of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), exhorting this town’s Mayor Ricardo Camacho to cease and desist on any demotion or alteration he undergoes on the BCS.
“Please be advised that the American period Gabaldon’s school falls within the purview of the heritage law, which provides that structure fifty years older shall be presumed to be important cultural property. Since the NHCP collaborate with the Department of Education to preserve (the) Gabaldon building throughout the country, we enjoin you to refrain from demolishing or altering the Gabaldon building in keeping with the law,” the letter says.
Gabaldons are school edifices constructed all over the country during the American colonial era, as mandated by Act No. 1801 authored by Nueva Ecija Assemblyman Isauro Gabaldon.
Alcantara cited that one of the three Gabaldon buildings gutted by fire was constructed in 1928. The other two edifices were built in 1922 and 1912. The 1912 Gabaldon, she said, was demolished by people under the Camacho administration.
Alcantara said that the stalemate between the BCS and the local government here can be resolved if Camacho withdraw the mandatory injunction he filed against the DepEd officials at the Regional Trial Court in San Carlos City.
The major argument of Camacho in his court case was the hundreds of elementary students were threatened by dengue and flood.
Alcantara, in an earlier interview, disputed the legal argument of the mayor as they were merely to scare the school population so he can dig a treasure buried by Japanese soldiers in World War II, build a mall, and construct a transportation terminal in the old campus site.
“The mayor should not worry about the rehabilitation and repair of the school. We know how to source fund for its construction,” an emotional and tearful PTA president told Northern Watch.
Early last year businessman and philanthropist Rosendo So, former Fifth-District Congressman Mark Cojuangco, and others donated 20 newly painted classrooms that contained new desks, teacher’s tables and chairs, blackboards, others.
When asked why Camacho would not withdraw the case he filed in court, Alcantara said she suspected he has commitment with Chua.
The Filipino Chinese businessman is seen as a dummy behind the stand-off on the sale of the 3.2 hectares prime land BCS that was swapped with a 2.2-hectare lot he owned at Barangay Bical.
Bical is three kilometres away from the defunct Central School that caused woes to parents as they shelled out additional fares to their children in attending the school built by Chua.
“Talagang naka commit siya kay Willy Chua. Willy Chua naka commit daw pero pakiramdam namin at alam po namin talagang Governor (Amado) Espino (He was committed with Willy Chua but we felt that Camacho was committed with Governor Amado Espino)”
Alcantara denounced too, the regional and provincial DepEd officials in colluding with the personalities involved in the transfer of the children at the school in Barangay Bical.