‘A recurring circumstance’: DepEd responds to circulating reports on zero-budget for SPED learners

September 20, 2022 - 9:48 AM
A teacher sprays alcohol on the hands of students for protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), on the first day of in-person classes at a public school in San Juan City, Philippines, August 22, 2022. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

The Department of Education admitted that the exclusion of funds for special education (SPED) needs in the national budget is a “recurring circumstance.”

DepEd expressed this in an official statement on Monday, September 19.

“This is a recurring circumstance every year, and DepEd is not at a loss because we always work with members of Congress to find other ways to fund DepEd programs,” the education department said.

“In the past years, DepEd has likewise made efforts within the organization to ensure that programs are supported,” it added.

This statement was released to address reports that DepEd proposed a zero budget for SPED for the National Expenditure Program (NEP) 2023.

The agency pointed out that it initially proposed a P532 million budget for this sector.

“Unfortunately, despite our earnest efforts to advocate for our learners with special needs, it was not considered in the National Expenditure Program (NEP). This is true for two other programs that were excluded from the NEP,” DepEd said.

While it’s difficult to trace the agency’s budget over the years, it managed to grant funds to SPED in the past three years.

It should also be noted that these measures were approved at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The following are SPED’s allocations since the fiscal year of 2020:

  • 2020 – P107 million
  • 2021 – P329 million
  • 2022 – P560 million

Several Filipinos, meanwhile, expressed their anger and dismay over this development.

They perceived it as a misplaced priority for the government to ask for a huge amount of money for confidential funds and exclude the welfare of SPED learners.

“If the previously nonexistent confidential fund was considered without hesitation, then more so should the SPED budget be approved for 2023. No ifs, buts, or maybes,” one user said.

“So in other words…priority ng Confidential Funds is greater than SPED,” another user commented.

The government proposed a staggering P500-million budget for confidential funds for the Office of the Vice President (OVP).

Other Filipinos suggested realigning the hefty amount of confidential funds to SPED needs.

“Could it be possible that confidential funds may be used to fund said unfunded programs if only to promote some form of patronage politics? Is it possible that politics be placed at the service of the nation and not of some plans other than the program itself?” one user said.

“The DepEd may slash the budget from its intelligence/confidential fund. It was huge, anyway. Inclusive education is at stake here,” another user suggested.

DBM’s statement

In a separate statement, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said that there’s not enough documentation provided to support the retention of SPED under the NEP 2023.

DBM cited the following details which were not provided:

  • Details of the proposed amount with specific purposes
  • Basis of computations/parameters
  • Status of the ongoing conversion and establishment of Inclusive Learning Resource Centers (ILRCs) funded under FY 2021 and FY 2022 GAA

DBM also assured the public that the SPED program under the previous GAA has an obligation rate of 1.13% or only P6.35 million out of P560.202 million allocation.

This means that such funding is still valid until December 31, 2023.

Moreover, the department also pointed out that the implementing agency can modify and realign its budget to other needs.

“Items may be realigned and modified by the implementing agency to accommodate the requirements of any program that is in dire need of additional resources,” the DBM said.