MANILA – The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) slammed on Monday the Department of Education for purchasing new service vehicles, saying it was an “insensible” use of funds at a time when teachers have been shouldering the costs of implementing distance learning.
“We were anguished with this insensible use of education money, especially when our teachers shoulder the costs for bond paper, ink, devices and internet connectivity needed just to make modular and online learning happen amid the pandemic,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said in a statement.
“This is the DepEd’s own kind of the dolomite scam,” he added, referring to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ artificial white-sand beach project in Manila Bay, which critics described as a waste of public funds.
In a statement, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. (MMPC) said it delivered 166 units of its Strada 4x4 GLS MT trucks to the DepEd, which would be used by the agency’s engineers for field inspections.
The delivery was on top of the 88 trucks that were turned over to the DepEd last Dec. 5, 2019, bringing the total number of purchased vehicles to 254, according to MMPC.
Education Undersecretary Alain Pascua said the department procured the 4x4 trucks, which costs P1.5 million per unit, even before the pandemic so DepEd personnel could reach schools in far-flung areas.
“They (Mitsubishi) won in the competitive bidding. Theirs is the lowest,” he told ABS-CBN News.
“When we were about to distribute them, naabutan ng ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) kaya kailan lang yan nai-distribute,” he added.
(When we were about to distribute the vehicles, government implemented the enhanced community quarantine, that’s why they were distributed only recently.)
During the ECQ period, the vehicles were used to transport frontliners due to the ban on public transportation, Pascua said.
“Prior to school opening and even until now, those vehicles have been used and are being used in the delivery of modules, in transporting teachers, and in addressing emergencies,” he said.
In a separate statement, Pascua said there has been a clamor for service vehicles among DepEd’s engineers and architects since late 2016.
DepEd’s field engineers have been riding with school building contractors when inspecting project sites in far-flung areas, which may compromise their investigations and reports on the projects, he explained.
Pascua said the department’s disaster risk reduction management personnel would also use the 4x4 trucks in times of emergencies and calamities.
The department also purchased 183 units of passenger vans that will be used by field officials in official functions, he added.
But Basilio said it was not an excuse if the department had purchased the vehicles before the pandemic since “shortages” in basic learning needs have long hounded the education system.
This year, schools shifted to distance learning – which makes use of printed and digital modules, online classes, television and radio – after government banned in-person classes due to the continuing threat of COVID-19.
While the DepEd gave funds to its personnel for the provision of learning materials, some teachers have used their own money or asked donations from the public for bond paper reams to be able to print the learning modules for their students.