MANILA - Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday quizzed Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. on why he prefers to increase teachers' supplies allowance to only P5,000 when the Senate can instead push for a bill that would give a P20,000 grant for educators.
Revilla is the sponsor of Senate Bill No. 1092 which, if passed into law, will mandate the executive to increase teachers' annual "chalk allowance" to P5,000 from the current P3,500.
"Will you accept an amendment to increase it to P20,000?" Drilon asked Revilla in plenary.
"This is about the needs of the teachers," the Minority Leader said.
Revilla said that while he is in favor of raising the annual grant even to P50,000, the Senate must still produce a "realistic bill" that would not be vetoed by the President.
"We have to be realistic," Revilla said.
"Kung puwede lang po gawin nating P10,000 [increase] pero it will cost a lot," he said.
"Kung makakahanap po tayo ng pondo for this, I am very much willing to accept," he said.
(If we could only make it a P10,000 increase but it will cost a lot. If we can find funds for this, I am very much willing to accept [the amendment].)
But Drilon argued that the Senate can push for a huge allocation for teachers as providing some P20,000 annually to each of the 876,000 teachers in the country should be a "priority."
"Are we saying we cannot fund P17 billion? Are the President's confidential and intelligence fund a priority?" Drilon said.
Revilla said that indicating a huge sum for educators' allowance may result in a veto of the bill, which will leave teachers with the current P3,500 they receive each year.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said that while he would back a proposition to "reduce" the President's confidential and intelligence funds in favor of additional grants for teachers, the Senate is better off passing a measure that will not be rejected by the President.
"Better we give them something than nothing," Recto said.
"Malaki ang social at economic return nito (The social and economic return of this is big). They are responsible for what our children learn," he said.
Drilon said the bill should mandate the executive branch to include the teachers' allowance for supplies in the annual budget at a fixed price.
"If we pass the law, we must remove the discretion on the part of the President [not to fund the program] because this is a very valid need," he said.
"We should be compelling them to do and act according to what the law requires them to do," he said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson backed Drilon, saying the amount of teachers' allowances "cannot be vague."
"Hindi puwedeng subject to the availability of funds kasi hindi talaga mapopondohan," he said.
(It cannot be subject to the availability of funds because it won't be funded.)
"Let's be definite. If it's P5,000, let's make it P5,000," he said.
The senators agreed to suspend debates on the measure until they get more details from the Department of Education during budget deliberations next week.
The last time the teachers' allowance was increased was in 2018, when the national government raised it by P1,000.
Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture chair Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said teachers would need a bigger amount this year since they would have to spend on "technological subscriptions" to adapt to distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.