MANILA - The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) on Tuesday said the P160 million worth of funds flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA) were accounted for, amid mounting criticisms.
COA earlier said TESDA transferred P160 million to the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which was "highly questionable for lack of authority and legal basis."
There was also "the absence of appropriate guidelines as to how this funds shall be utilized, likewise exposing these funds to possible misuse or misappropriation," according to COA's 2020 report on TESDA.
But TESDA Director General Isidro Lapeña said the P160,083,401.61 was for the scholarship and livelihood projects for former rebels.
"The allocation in question were spent for various scholarship and livelihood programs for the beneficiaries such as: members of the communist terrorist groups who decided to return to the government’s fold," according to Lapeña.
"This fund in question was used in order for them to live a normal life again," he added.
The former rebels who given new livelihood opportunities through TESDA, he said, were Filipinos who are in "geographically isolated and disadvantaged communities, including indigenous peoples in far-flung areas of the country."
TESDA, he also pointed out, heads the Poverty Reduction, Livelihood, and Employment Cluster and the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
This was why the agency is working with the country's anti-insurgency task force.
Lapeña added that the some of the P160 million worth of funds were sourced from TESDA's scholarship funds and that the use was "lawful."
"We also have existing protocols to ensure proper and lawful disbursement of funds and has submitted all the documents to COA to support our disbursements... We will release a detailed report on this matter as soon as possible."
KABATAAN PARTYLIST: NO BASIS
In a statement, the Kabataan Partylist blasted TESDA for allotting some P147 million worth of scholarship funds to NTF-ELCAC, saying it was baseless.
Manuel added that the task force is still asking for additional funds next year despite its redtagging and the funds received from TESDA could have been used elsewhere.
NTF-ELCAC is seeking worth P40 billion next year.
“Ang dali-dali magbuhos ng pera papunta sa bulsa ng mga dating heneral sa NTF-ELCAC pero sa pamamahagi ng ayuda, kakarampot lang at napakabagal," Manuel said.