MANILA (UPDATED) — Opposition lawmakers on Thursday proposed rechanneling the Department of Education's (DepEd) P150-million confidential funds, saying providing more funding to the agency's other programs would better address the needs of the sector.
Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte earlier explained the confidential funds under the DepEd's proposed 2023 budget is meant to address illegal activities targeting students.
But Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said it would be better to use the amount for the DepEd's Special Education (SPED) program, which got zero allocation under the proposed budget.
"This is for the Department of Education to voluntarily realign its items of expenditure... so that they can produce the amount necessary for the education of special children," Lagman said.
Davao de Oro 1st District Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, sponsor of the DepEd's budget during the House plenary deliberations, said the agency had been realigning its own funds for the past years when the SPED got zero funding.
"The department was able to look for funds internally so that it will be able to implement the SPED program," she said.
Zamora gave the same response to Camarines Sur 3rd District Rep. Gabriel Bordado, who sought to rectify the zero budget for SPED.
Meanwhile, Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas and Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel want the confidential funds spent on child protection instead.
Brosas said the funding could also provide thousands of armchairs and millions of textbooks to schools, thus addressing the learning crisis.
Zamora noted the suggestion of her fellow lawmakers.
Brosas said she also concerned that the funds will be used to allow security personnel inside schools.
"Nakakabahala po na ninormalisa natin yung pagpasok ng pulis at militar na may mga dala pang baril sa loob ng paaralan," she said.
(It's concerning how we are normalizing the entry of cops and military personnel with guns inside our schools.)
"If we're referring to PNP, they are our peacekeepers. They are mandated to ensure peace and order in the community, and that includes our school," Zamora replied.
SOLON: DEPED HAS MORE SURVEILLANCE FUND THAN AMLC
House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro pointed out that the DepEd has more surveillance funds than the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which is tasked to watch over the banking and financial system and make sure it is not used in criminal activities.
"Sa ganitong confidential fund, P10 million lang 'yung confidential fund na ganito na magagamit sa paniniktik, mukhang ang liit. Mas malaki pa nga confidential fund ng DepEd kung tutuusin, P150 million," Castro said.
(In this kind of confidential fund, P10 million seems meager for surveillance use. DepEd even has a bigger confidential fund of P150 million.)
The agency's budget sponsor, Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Raul Angelo Jill Bongalon, supported the call to give more surveillance funds to the AMLC.
AMLC is seeking more than P100-million budget for 2023.
The House terminated deliberations on budgets of the AMLC, as well as the OVP, DepEd, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Dangerous Drugs Board, Department of Labor and Employment, and the Judiciary as of press time.