The P150-million additional funding in "intelligence funds" requested by the Department of Education (DepEd) came under fire at the Senate finance committee hearing on Tuesday (October 4),
According to Inquirer, Sen. Risa Hontiveros noted that the amount sought by DepEd was P9 million more than the P141 million sought by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) itself.
While intelligence funds are normally used for surveillance activities by the military and the police, Vice President Sara Duterte, who is also Education Secretary, has claimed the money is needed for the surveillance of criminals targeting schoolchildren.
"[DepEd’s] budget prioritization is misplaced. Let’s leave intelligence and security to the pros,” said Hontiveros, who urged DepEd to focus instead on institutional reforms to improve basic education in the country.
"National security is not the mandate of DepEd," added Hontiveros, who noted that the department has "no capability or infrastructure to conduct surveillance activities and crime busts."
She cited other priorities, such as ensuring the health and safety of teachers and students amid the pandemic, strengthening its education program for indigenous peoples and improving overall literacy in the country. "We are facing a serious education crisis. We will lose our focus if we burden an education agency with national security matters."
During last Thursday's committee hearing, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III also said it would be better to use the P150 million for the repair of schools damaged by Super Typhoon Karding.
However, on the same day, the Senate finance committee approved the P710.6-billion budget for DepEd, including the P150 million.
Confidential funds are usually subject to the discretion of the head of the concerned agency. And because of their nature, the Commission on Audit said these expenditures are "difficult" to examine.
In 2015 the Commission issued guidelines on the use of such funds. For example, they cannot be spent on salaries and allowances or procurement of equipment.
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