MANILA (UPDATED) — Vice President Sara Duterte on Wednesday said the Department of Education's proposed P150-million confidential funds were meant to address illegal activities targeting students.
At the House Appropriations Committee hearing on the 2023 budget, Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel asked Duterte, who heads the DepEd, if its confidential funds could be realigned.
"In case there will be an amendment in the NEP (National Expenditure Program) to realign confidential funds and good governance programs to specific itemized programs in education gaya ng (like the) provision on school supplies, will DepEd be willing and able to utilize such funds?" he said.
But Duterte said the confidential fund would be used for "so many issues" faced by the department, including "sexual grooming," "active shooter copycats," "insurgency recruitment" of children, and drug involvement of learners.
"The success of projects activities and programs depend upon very good surveillance and intelligence," Duterte said, adding that it would be difficult to come up with solutions without credible intelligence information.
"All these relate to our mandate that we deliver quality basic education to our learners and of course, education of our children relates to our national security as well," she continued.
Meanwhile, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas pointed out other needs that needed funding.
"Kulang tayo sa classrooms, kulang tayo sa upuan, kulang tayo sa textbook learning tapos maglalagay tayo ng confidential funds na di naman natin maa-account. Sana man lang mailagay na lang 'yung pondo sa mga dapat nilang kalagyan," Brosas said.
(We still lack classrooms, chairs, and textbooks, and now we're proposing confidential funds that we cannot account for. I hope we put them instead in where we need them most.)
Brosas also asked Duterte why she proposed confidential funds for the OVP and DepEd when they were not included in the 2021 and 2022 budgets.
Duterte said that the OVP and DepEd are 2 separate entities with different mandates.
"As explained earlier, the success of project activity or program really depends upon very good intelligence and surveillance," Duterte said.
"Basic education has a direct link to the national security of our country. We are truly interested in the quality of education of our learners," she added.
The House Appropriations Committee terminated the OVP budget briefing without questions, citing courtesy.
Duterte thanked House lawmakers for support and expressed openness to collaborating for their districts and party-lists.
DBM CUTS ORIGINAL DEPED BUDGET PROPOSAL
The Department of Budget and Management cut the DepEd's proposed 2023 budget by around P144 billion, or 17.8 percent lower than its original proposal. Despite the reduction, the DepEd maintains its status as one of the top recipients of next year's expenditure program.
The budget briefer presented to the House Appropriations Committee showed that the DepEd Office of the Secretary originally wanted a P810.414-billion budget for 2023, but DBM only approved P666.25 billion.
The cut led to zero funding for the following: site validation and preliminary detailed engineering activities for basic education facilities, priority school health facilities, and the Special Education Program for those with special needs.
"Several key programs of the department were left unfunded under the 2023 NEP most notably the Site Validation and Preliminary and Detailed Engineering Activities which helps DEPED and DPWH confirm a site's readiness for construction activities," DepEd Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla said.
"The provision of priority school health facilities is also funded under the 2022 GAA but are now unfunded under the 2023 NEP and the Special Education Program which has been a fixture for learners with disabilities is unfortunately unfunded," she added.
Education Undersecretary Jose Ernesto Gaviola said, "For this year, DepEd has no budget for this and we are just utilizing whatever is the available funds for 2022."
"Moreover, we requested P560 million, but in NEP it's zero budget," he added.
Other projects, activities and programs affected by the cut include the following.
- Child Protection Program, down 82.2 percent to P4.74 million from P26.72 million in 2022
- Development and Management of Bilateral and Multilateral Education Projects, down 79.1 percent to P13.123 million from P62.6 million
- Indigenous People's Education Program, down 63 percent to P53.358 million from P144.306 million
- Computerization Program, down 24.4 percent to P8.88 billion from P11.742 billion
- Last Mile Schools Program, down 0.7 percent to P1.5 billion from P1.510 billion
There is no movement in the quick response fund as it retains its P2-billion budget next year.
"It is also noteworthy that while the quick response fund allocated to the department remained at P2 billion, the DepEd is proposing for a significant increase in funding given the massive backlog of classroom repairs damaged by calamities, putting the DepEd in a quicksand situation which it cannot immediately prevent or get out of," Sevilla said.
Compared to the 2022 budget of P591.18 billion, the Deped Office of the Secretary however got 12.7 percent or P75.068 billion more in the 2023 budget. Maintenance and other operating expenses got the biggest bump of 38.2 percent.