MANILA -- Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte on Monday defended her proposal for Department of Education (DepEd) to be given P150 million in confidential funds for next year.
In an interview with media on the sideline of the Brigada Eskwela kick off at Tarlac National High School, Duterte stressed that the fund is necessary for the learning of students.
“Education is intertwined with national security. Napakahalaga na we mold children who are patriotic, children who will love our country and who will defend our country,” she said.
Duterte said there is basis for the requested amount but refused to give details due to its nature.
“There is a joint memorandum circular with regard to confidential funds. So nakalatag doon pano siya gagamitin, nakalatag din doon paano siya ili-liquidate. And by its nature it’s confidential funds so we cannot discuss paano siya ginagamit sa operations,” she explained.
“With regard to the confidential funds, we leave it to the decision of Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Basta kami nag-propose kami. Iniiwan na namin sa kanila ang desisyon,” she added.
The DepEd's proposed budget in 2024 is P758.59 billion, or P36 billion more than this current year's P721.79 billion.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas criticized the proposed confidential fund of DepEd, saying it has no place in such department.
"Confidential funds have no place in the Department of Education... We need classrooms, not barracks... Children will become more patriotic if the government will provide sufficient support for schools and basic social services instead of Confidential and Intelligence Fund which reeks of corruption," she said.
Aside from DepEd, Duterte is also asking for a separate P500 million confidential funds for the Office of the Vice President.
Meanwhile, Duterte said that they have made this year’s “National Brigada Eswkela” simpler, focusing mainly on maintenance of schools’ facilities and making sure that they are functional and orderly ahead of the opening of classes on Aug. 29.
“Tanggalin ninyo lahat ng mga clutter, iyong mga dumi, iyong mga nakatambak sa loob ng classroom at loob ng eskwelahan,” Duterte said.
While participation to the Brigada Eskwela is voluntary, Duterte made an appeal to the "Bayanihan Spirit" of Filipinos to help in readying the schools.
“Iyong ayaw pong tumulong, huwag niyo nang pilitin. Iyong wala pong ambag sa bayanihan at mayroon pang reklamo…isarado ninyo ang bibig,” she said.
DepEd noted that around 353 schools have sustained infrastructure damages due to the recent typhoons Egay and Falcon, and the "habagat."
It has been assessing the condition of these schools and has tapped its P2 billion quick response fund for their immediate repair.
“Sa mga nasirang paaralan noong recent na bagyo sila po ang priority sa ating disaster funds para sa repairs. Kung hindi siya umabot by the opening of classes mayroon tayong blended learning modality na pwede nila gamitin,” Duterte said.
“Kapag hindi po safe ang mga paaralan, lalo na kung infrastructure damage, hindi talaga natin pipilitin ang mga magaaral natin, lalo na ang teachers natin na pumasok sa kanilang paaralan,” DepEd Usec. Michael Poa added in a separate press conference.
DepEd also announced that today, August 7, is the beginning of enrollment for public schools.
Poa said they are expecting at least 1 percent increase in the number of enrollees compared to last year or around 28.8 million learners to return to schools this year.
Enrollment is open until August 26, and students may choose among three modalities, which are onsite enrollment, online, or through drop boxes.
Poa added that DepEd is eyeing to hire more teachers to address the shortage.
“Last year we were able to hire 9,500 teachers. This year we are targeting to hire another 9,650 teachers at tayo ay magdadagdag ng mas maraming teacher plantilla positions para sa ating 2024 budget proposal,” he explained.
DepEd is also set to launch the revised K to 10 (kindergarten to Grade 10) curriculum on August 10, Poa said.
--With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News