Efforts to realign the controversial confidential funds of the Department of Education were commended online.
The Senate on Wednesday, November 23 approved the proposal of Sen. Risa Hontiveros to realign P120 million confidential funds of the DepEd to its Healthy Learning Institutions Program.
Hontiveros informed the public about this development on Facebook.
“Good news! P120 million confidential funds ng DepEd ay na-realign ng Senado sa Healthy Learning Institutions Program ng DepEd. Happy!” she said.
The education department was previously asking for P150 million worth of confidential funds from the national budget for next year.
In a separate tweet, Hontiveros expressed her view on transparency in the budget-making process of the Senate.
“The public is not powerless, should not feel powerless, and should not be made to feel powerless,” the opposition senator said.
“Kaya importanteng maalam ang ating mga kababayan sa budget-making process ng Senado. May karapatang malaman ng mamamayan kung saan ginagamit ang pera ng mamamayan,” she added.
Hontiveros and Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III have previously flagged the P4.5 billion worth of confidential and intelligence funds that the Office of the President is asking for.
During the latest Senate hearing, Hontiveros once again expressed her position on the matter.
“So for the record, I hope that our colleagues in the Senate will share the view that there are no extraordinarily compelling reasons to provide a confidential fund to the education agency,” the lawmaker was quoted in a report as saying.
“After all, Mr. President (Senate President Miguel Zubiri), we should enable and empower school authorities to collaborate with national and local agencies to address and respond to their peace and order law enforcement and security needs,” she added.
The Healthy Learning Institutions Program is an initiative that DepEd launched last October 11 in partnership with the Department of Health.
This program is the strengthened version of DepEd’s “Oplan Kalusugan.”
It is aimed to strengthen health and nutrition programs in the basic education sector with the help of various stakeholders.
Small, yet good development
Rep. Raoul Manuel (Kabataan Partylist) and other Filipinos welcomed the realignment of the DepEd’s confidential funds.
They hoped that the rest of such expenses will be realigned before being submitted to Malacañang.
“Natutuwa tayo na naaaksyunan sa Senado ang realignment ng DepEd confidential funds na ipinanawagan din ng Kabataan sa Kongreso. Dapat manatili ang ganitong realignment sa final version ng budget na pipirmahan sa Malacañang. Tuloy ang laban!” Manuel tweeted.
“Realign the remaining funds. Kapal ng mukha natin kung hindi ginagamit sa tamang proseso ang pondo,” one Redditor said.
Other online users, meanwhile, criticized the government expenditures tagged as “confidential.”
“Salamat po, dapat talaga walang confidential funds ang DepEd, kailangan tanggalin na lahat ng confidential funds,” one Facebook user said.
“Confidential Fund is legal corruption at its best!” another user commented.
“It should be illegal to make funds confidential,” one Redditor said.
What are confidential funds?
A joint circular in 2015 defined confidential and intelligence funds as the lump sum allocations in the national budget that were set aside for surveillance and information-gathering activities.
Based on this circular, national government agencies can get both confidential and intelligence funds.
Local governments and government-owned and controlled corporations can only get confidential funds.
The government bodies involved in this resolution are the following:
- Commission on Audit (COA)
- Department of Budget and Management (DBM)
- Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)
- Governance Commission for Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GCG)
- Department of National Defense (DND)
Here’s an explainer video of Philstar.com’s “Anyare?” series about this topic.