Opposition Senator Francis “Kiko” N. Pangilinan today took to task the Department of Education (DepEd) after a DepEd module portrayed farmers wearing tattered clothes.
‘’Farmers who feed us should be treated with respect and portrayed as people of dignity,’’ Pangilinan, himself a farmer, said.
Raising the issue at the plenary debates for the budget of the DepEd late Thursday night, Pangilinan asked to be clarified who approves the modules and if it was thoroughly reviewed before dissemination.
“Kung ganito ang pagsasalarawan ng mga magasasaka, para itong stereotyping… Ginagawa silang kasuklam-suklam. We understand that a vast majority of our farmers are poor. But to stereotype them, ano ang magiging mensahe sa ating mga kabataan? Na hindi katanggap-tanggap ang maging magsasaka?” Pangilinan asked. (If this is how farmers are portrayed, this is stereotyping. They are being portrayed as rejects….what is the message of this module to the young? That farmers are rejects of society?)
DepEd officials acknowledged the issue and said that they know of the problem. While the modules have already been distributed, DepEd committed to issue an explanation that the image was a wrong depiction of farmers.
DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones also responded via text message read on the Senate floor that DepEd has a zero-tolerance policy against stereotyping and other forms of discrimination, assuring the Senate that the matter would be investigated and that sanctions would be imposed.
“This is a long-standing centuries-old bias against farming and agriculture. We don’t want to teach our children to look down upon farming and farmers,” Pangilinan said.
“Stop perpetuating stereotypes. Hindi man sinasadya, pagmamaltrato sa ating mga magsasaka ang nasabing larawan,” added the former Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agriculture Modernization. (Even if it was not intentional, the picture inflicts damage to the image of farmers.)
“We should stop belittling our farmers and unlearn a lot of cultural biases against farmers. We call those who are lagging, ‘naiiwan sa kangkungan (left out in the race_.’ We call those who are underperforming, ‘nangangamote (underperformer).’ Insult someone as ‘hampas lupa.’ Pagsasaka ba yan?” (Insult somebody as weak by asking ‘is that farming?)
In a post that has gone viral on Facebook, Ma Teresita Santillan of Marinduque called out DepEd for using an image of a family of farmers in her son’s Grade 3 English module.
The image portrayed the farmer wearing ragged clothing with plenty of children, some not even wearing clothes.
“Hindi po pulubi ang ating magsasaka, kung wala sila wala tayong pagkain. Mararangal ang ating magsasaka. Ganito po ba natin ituturo at isasalarawan ang isang magsasaka sa ating mga kabataan? Nakakadurog po kayo ng puso,” Santillan said. (Our farmers are no beggars. Our farmers are proud. Is this how our students are being taught? It breaks one’s heart.)
Agreeing with his fellow Marinduqueño, Pangilinan added that a change in mindset is needed to correct these biases.
“Education and media play a big role in changing this mindset whose biggest victims are farmers who themselves say, ‘Magsasaka lang po kami.’ Hindi dapat sila pagmukhaing kawawa,” Pangilinan tweeted. (..we are farmers. They should not be treated as needing pity.)
“Instead of belittling farmers, we should empower and support them. It starts with words, and how they are portrayed,’’ he added.
Pangilinan, a farmer himself, is principal author of the Sagip Saka Act of 2019 which aims to increase the incomes of farmers and fisher folk by streamlining the direct purchase of agricultural products from farmers and fisher folk.