MANILA (UPDATE) - The Department of Education said Saturday it has cancelled its supposed procurement of over P4 million worth of ham and cheese meant for the central office's Christmas celebration, calling it "inappropriate" amid the pandemic and stream of typhoons affecting parts of the country.
DepEd released a statement after the halted procurement came to light on social media, drawing public criticism for the supposed expense.
DepEd Public Affairs Director June Arvin Gudoy said the department has "reallocated" the funds to aid employees heavily affected by typhoons Rolly and Ulysses, which brought severe flooding and damage across Luzon this month.
Funds will also be used to provide support for those affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
"The call for bidding has been cancelled. It was regular procurement but it is inappropriate at this time when our employees are severely affected by recent disasters. We have since reallocated the funds for the needs of those affected by typhoons Rolly and Ulysses and the ongoing COVID-19 effort for our employees," Gudoy said in a statement.
The DepEd had opened bids on its website for “Supply and Delivery of Ham and Cheese for DepEd Central Office Christmas Celebration” with funding of P4.278 million.
The page to the bidding has been deleted.
DepEd said its offices in areas spared by recent typhoons have offered to help those hit by successive storms.
"After Bicol, our Undersecretaries will also visit our schools in Cagayan soonest to check the needs of our schools. The welfare of our teachers and learners remains to be our priority and more so at this time," Gudoy said.
While "pleased" with the cancellation, Teacher's Dignity Coalition chairman Benjo Basas said the move was a testament to how "DepEd sets priorities and violates its own rules."
"We are pleased that the DepEd has cancelled its bidding for ham and cheese amounting to more than P4.2 million for the Christmas celebration in Central Office. However, this only shows how DepEd sets priorities and violates its own rules," he said, citing a DepEd order that says Christmas celebrations in public schools should be "simple but meaningful."
Basas also pointed out the timing of the bidding, citing how it was posted during the onslaught of typhoons in the country.
In an earlier Facebook post, Basas lamented the supposed lack of priorities set by the agency amid a time of crisis, and the difficulties teachers and students have to hurdle in a modular learning set-up imposed by authorities during a coronavirus pandemic.
"'Mahirap itong paniwalaan, pero totoo. Ganito rin ang nangyari noong nakaraang taon, nasa higit tatlong milyong piso ang inilaan sa hamon at keso de bola. Ano ba talaga ang gustong bigyang-prayoridad ng DepEd? Mahirap itong maunawaan. Lalo pa at taun-taon ay mayroong paalala ang DepEd na panatilihing makabuluhan at hindi magastos ang pagdiriwang ng Pasko. Ang paalala bang ito ay para lamang sa mga guro at punongguro? Para lang sa mga paaralan?" Basas said in a Facebook post.
(It's hard to believe, but it's true. This was what happened last year. More than P3 million was allotted for ham and cheese. What does the DepEd want to prioritize? This is hard to understand especially that every year DepEd always reminds us to keep Christmas celebrations simple. Is this reminder only for teachers and principals? For the schools?)
-- With a report from Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News