Parents, kids caught up in Taguig-Makati row
MANILA, Philippines — Confusion and anxiety marked the first day of the “Brigada Eskwela” campaign in some of the 14 Makati public schools caught in the middle of the city’s turf war with Taguig on Monday.
At Makati Science High School (MSHS), Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano kicked off the annual school maintenance drive before a crowd of volunteers wearing white shirts on which “Taguig Brigada Eskwela” were printed.
In her speech before Department of Education (DepEd) and school officials as well as teachers, parents and volunteers, Cayetano asked the officers of the Makati General Parents Teachers Association (PTA) for their understanding and patience.
“I will coordinate with DepEd officials to ensure that … your worries, doubts and questions will be answered and cleared up,” she said.
However, Mark Christian Galang, chair of Makati PTA Federation or the overall PTA organization in the city, told the Inquirer that Cayetano’s appearance took attendees by surprise because they were not informed about her arrival.
Citing reports from his officers, Galang said many MSHS parents complained they were caught off guard because they had already organized their own program for the Brigada Eskwela opening.
“We are the legitimate parents [of students in this school] yet there were no seats for us,” he quoted the parents as saying.
At Benigno Aquino High School, a group of around 70 parent-volunteers who said they were from Taguig City entered the premises and helped clean up the classrooms and school facilities.
The volunteers said no one had asked them to go to the school, saying they just showed up on their own because “this is how we do it in Taguig; we are willing to help.”
Other groups of Taguig volunteers also went to some schools although they were not allowed entry because they were not the parents of enrolled students.
Galang, the father of an incoming Grade 7 student at MSHS, said he and the other parents were worried “about what would happen on the first day of classes and if some of the property owned by the Makati City government would be pulled out.”
He urged the Taguig government to hold a dialogue with them so that it could listen to their concerns.
“As a parent, our call is for them to retain the status quo for a few months to give time for the transition because the enrollment and Brigada Eskwela are ongoing,” Galang said, adding they would prefer that the transfer of supervision from Makati DepEd officials to their Taguig counterparts not be done hastily.
Earlier, the DepEd National Capital Region issued a memorandum placing the 14 public schools in Makati City under the supervision of the DepEd Taguig-Pateros Division.
The order was issued after the Supreme Court Third Division in April affirmed its 2021 ruling which stated that 10 barangays in Makati’s second district, namely, Pembo, Comembo, Cembo, South Cembo, West Rembo, East Rembo, Pitogo, Rizal, Post Proper Northside and Post Proper Southside, including Bonifacio Global City, “based on historical, documentary and testimonial evidence, indeed fall within the territorial jurisdiction of Taguig.” The decision became final in September 2022.
The affected schools include MSHS, Fort Bonifacio Elementary School, Cembo Elementary School, South Cembo Elementary School, Pitogo Elementary School, East Rembo Elementary School, Rizal Elementary School, Comembo Elementary School, West Rembo Elementary School, Pembo Elementary School, Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino High School, Tibagan High School, Fort Bonifacio High School and Pitogo High School.
Over the weekend, huge tarpaulins with the message, “This property is owned by Makati City,” were put up at some of the schools after the Makati local government said the court decision covered only jurisdictional boundaries and did not transfer to Taguig ownership of its properties.
It also deployed policemen to several of the affected schools after Makati City administrator Claro Certeza cited a takeover attempt by Taguig City Public Safety Department personnel.
Cops on guard
On Monday, some Taguig policemen were seen guarding the schools, particularly Fort Bonifacio High School and Cembo Elementary School.
Their presence, however, according to Girlie Joy Calicdan, scared her children who were students at the two schools.
“Even my kids were asking, ‘Mom, what will happen now, are we under Taguig already?’ They’re also getting confused,” Calicdan told the Inquirer.
But she said she remained hopeful that Makati Mayor Abby Binay would not abandon them, saying that because of the many benefits provided by the city government, all her children had to do was show up at school—a big help to her as a single parent.
Certeza, however, said on Monday that during a meeting in July, Taguig officials rejected Binay’s offer to provide free school supplies and uniforms to some 30,000 students in the affected schools.
He claimed that Binay had proposed a status quo with Makati City continuing to provide services to the affected schools to “ease the worries of the students and their parents.”
“We have offered an arrangement that would benefit the students. But Taguig rejected it,” Certeza said.
All public school students in Makati City receive free sneakers, white socks and black leather shoes, water tumblers, and school bags. They also get hygiene kits, dental kits, anti-dengue kits, hard hats, emergency bags, and rain gear.
For her part, Cayetano said the city government had already prepared school kits to be distributed to the 30,000 students soon.