House lawmaker flags NTF-ELCAC spending under TESDA

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 26 2022 01:53 PM

MANILA — House Deputy Minority Leader Rep. France Castro flagged on Monday the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spending under the Technical Educational Skills Development Authority. 

This was revealed during the plenary deliberation on the TESDA's proposed 2023 budget, which Makati Rep. Luis Campos defended as principal sponsor.

Castro flagged the NTF-ELCAC spending for an urban community agricultural training under TESDA in 6 cities Metro Manila. 
 
"Ang graduates ay 510 mula sa Navotas, Manila, Parañaque, Marikina, Pasay, Bagong Pag-asa [sa Quezon City]... Puwede bang ipaliwanag paano ba napili itong mga barangay na ito?" Castro asked.

"Ang ibig ba sabihin itong mga barangay na ito ay mayroon ditong mga surrenderees o mayroon dapat dito na insurgency sa NCR? May nagaganap na insurgency sa NCR at nagkakaroon ng ganitong proyekto?" 

(There were 510 graduates from Navotas, Manila, Paranaque, Marikina, Pasay, Bagong Pag-asa. Can you explain how these barangays were chosen? Does this mean these barangays had rebels who surrendered? Is there insurgency in NCR that warranted this kind of project?) 

Campo said he could not "conclusively" explain the selection of the project's beneficiaries.

"Nakakatawa 'yong mga pagpipili ng mga barangay ng tungkol sa project ng insurgency, project ng NTF-ELCAC ," Castro remarked.

"Ang ginastos ay malaki, P2.6 million ang proyekto na ito... Pero 'di natin tinitiyak 'yong mga programa, di natin tintiyak 'yong mga scholars," she added.

(The selection of barangays for this project related to insurgency, project of the NTF-ELCAC is funny. The project spent a lot, P2.6 million. But we are not sure of the program, we are not certain of the scholars.)

Campo said the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) picked the beneficiaries.

"Tumatanggap lang po ng listahan noong kapanahunanang iyon ang TESDA," he said.

"Purely training component lang pino-provide ng TESDA during that time period." 

(The TESDA only accepted the list at that time. The TESDA provided a purely training component during that period.)
 
Castro, whose Makabayan bloc has been repeatedly red-tagged or linked to the communist movement by the NTF-ELCAC, said the program was an example of how the task force used the TESDA to make it appear that there was insurgency in Metro Manila.

Campos committed that TESDA would submit a report on Friday. 

Meanwhile, the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) pointed to a Commission on Audit finding, which noted the lack of specific guidelines and regulations on the utilization of fund transfers and the implementation of programs in support of the NTF-ELCAC.

Castro also flagged the agency for a Commission on Audit report regarding the Biometric Enable Scholarship Registration Centers.

According to the 2021 COA finding noted by the House of Representatives' CPBRD, "the release of payment with a contract cost of P39.9 million to the awarded supplier for the procurement and installation of Biometric-enabled Scholarship Registration System was found not to be in accordance with the schedule of payment provided in the contract."

"Further, initial evaluation reports disclosed various issues encountered by the end-users showing that the expected risk capabilities of the system were not fully attained," it added.

The audit team's rejoinder, which responds to the comments made by the TESDA, stated that "the Management is in the best position to safeguard the government funds yet full payment was made even when the system was not fully deployed, and its actual operational performance has not been tested."

"Totoo po ba na mayroong findings na dito sa lumang pamamaraan natin (is it true that there were findings on our old system), the audit findings disclosed that scholars' list are inaccurate such as ghost trainees, ghost training institutions and no actual training conducted or fraudulent scholarship claims?" Castro asked.

Campos replied, "Nakakalungkot po pero merong ganung mga reports and findings kung kaya itong BSRS is primarily keyed to prevent, to address and prevent ghost scholarship awardees." 

(It's sad, but there are reports and findings like these, so the BSRS is primarily keyed to prevent, to address and prevent ghost scholarship awardees.)

TESDA is seeking a budget of P13.71 billion in 2023, about 2.2 percent lower than its P14.02-billion allotment this year, according to the CPBRD. 

By program, TESDA’s Technical Education and Skills Development Program will again have the biggest share amounting to P12.80 billion, equivalent to 72.1 percent of the total. 

"Two-thirds of these appropriations goes to quality technical education and skills development to be implemented by the various operating units nationwide. Note, however, that the allotment for this program (TESP) will decline by 3.4 percent from the 2022 level of P13.24 billion," CPBRD said.

The House think tank also said that in terms of sub-programs, TESDA’s Special Training for Employment Program (STEP) and Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP) have been allocated P1.90 billion and P2.60 billion, respectively. 

"The STEP provides community-based specialty training that seeks to address the specific needs of the community, while the TWSP delivers courses in key industries. The President has identified these sub-programs as components of Empowering the Filipino, specifically to continue to upskill and reskill the labor force and expects to help retrain, reskill, and retool a total of 225,076 enrollees," it said.

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