June 21, 2021 – Coinciding with its 123rd Founding Anniversary celebration, the Department of Education (DepEd) revealed that the first three education secretaries were Filipinos, according to initial research conducted by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
Undersecretary for Administration Alain Del B. Pascua initiated the research with NHCP Chairperson Rene Escalante to verify the list of the country’s education secretaries since the agency has recognized American Bernard Moses, who served in March 1900, as the first one.
“When the Philippine nation was proclaimed on June 12, 1898, I am sure that a secretary of education was also elected or appointed, if not particularly, then it should have been under a much larger body, when the Philippine Revolutionary Government was organized on June 23, 1898,” Undersecretary Pascua said.
NHCP Chairperson Escalante confirmed to Usec. Pascua that DepEd was founded on June 23, 1898, when the Philippine Revolutionary Government was established by President Emilio Aguinaldo with a functioning government structure designed by Apolinario Mabini.
“But it was only in September 26, 1898 that the position of the secretary was filled with the appointment of Felipe Buencamino as Secretary of Fomento (or Public Development) with Direccion de Instruccion Publica(Director for Public Instruction or Education) under it,” he noted.
The said research also uncovered that right after Buencamino, Graciano Gonzaga served as the second education chief from January to May 1899. AguedoVelarde then held the position until November 1899.
Among the pieces of evidence backing the claim is when the first education secretary issued several decrees in 1898, including the creation of the Unibersidad Literaria de Filipinas on October 19, the establishment of Instituto Burgos on October 24, and the instruction to reopen schools across the country on November 4.
With this development, Undersecretary Pascua said that the Department will continue coordinating with NHCP to conduct thorough research on the history of the agency.
“It will be most appropriate that come June 30, 2022, when the new administration succeeds, the portraits of the incumbent DepEd Secretary and the first DepEd Secretaries will be enshrined in the lobby of the Rizal Building and be given due recognition and honor,” Usec. Pascua said.
Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones backed up Usec. Pascua’s call in giving proper acknowledgment tothe first education secretaries in the history books.
“As an education institution, we want to make sure that we provide the right information to the public, especially in introducing our heroes, inventors, and pioneers. We have to give them the right and necessary honor in our establishment,” Secretary Briones said.