Give PDAF to DepEd? Not that simple, says Luistro

Education officials are concerned whether the PDAF-funded programs in 2014 will continue getting allocations in succeeding years

SUSTAINABILITY. Education Secretary Br Armin Luistro says they need to check where they can allocate the pork barrel funds should they be realigned to DepEd's budget. Photo by Jee Geronimo/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – While more and more lawmakers want to re-align their 2014 Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to the Department of Education (DepEd), Secretary Armin Luistro is not as keen on the agency absorbing the allocation.

“While it’s great to say thank you and accept that offer, I also would want to make sure that this is done in a way whereby we can assure ourselves [and Congress] that our absorbing capacity will allow us to spend the budget that they will add,” he said after the DepEd budget hearing at the House of Representatives on Monday, September 9.

It’s a question of sustainability, education officials told congressmen.

Luistro’s reservation stems from how it will be allocated and obligated within a one-year period. 

Parañaque Rep Gus Tambunting asked DepEd Undersecretary for Finance and Administration Francisco Varela where this fund may be used in the department.

“I think it’s also important to have clarity on the sustainability of this additional funding support, because that will help guide us in terms of identifying those expenditure items,” Varela said.

Unlike recurring expenses, the fund may be utilized for non-recurring items like additional classrooms that will be needed for senior high school, teacher-training, and extending information and communication technology (ICT)-based classrooms to other schools, the undersecretary said.

This fund can also go to the department’s 2014 feeding program for 500,000 severely-wasted children, with an initial allocation of P1 billion.

ACT Teachers Rep Antonio Tinio said he didn’t think sustaining programs that will be funded by the PDAF would be a problem since it will be an annual allocation.

“My thinking here is that the PDAF, P25 billion, has been accomodated by the budget year in and year out, so if we now do away with the PDAF but augment to other agencies, I think it can be sustained because you know in previous years [it was being sustained],” he added.

Resolutions 

Since President Benigno Aquino III announced on August 23 his plan to reform the pork barrel systemlawmakers have been reacting to the possible effect of an abolition to their programs and constituents

READ: P25-B lump sum PDAF to be removed, but…

During the hearing, Muntinlupa Rep Rodolfo Biazon expressed before DepEd officials and regional directors his plan to file a joint resolution for the abolition of the pork barrel and its realignment to DepEd’s budget for the implementation of the K to 12 program.

He filed Joint Resolution No. 5 on Monday.

Your products from high school will determine where this republic is going 10, 15, 20 years from now,” Biazon said.

Once the resolution is approved, Biazon said the P25.2 billion will be used to prepare for the full impact of the K to 12 on school year 2016-2017.

His statement met applause from those attending the hearing.

Iniisip ko po kanina nung nagsasasalita kayo, kung ako’y nangangarap ngayon, sana hindi na po ako magising,” Luistro told Biazon. (When you were speaking a while ago I was thinking: If I’m dreaming right now, I hope I don’t wake up anymore.)

On August 28, Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara also filed Senate Resolution No. 202 mandating the appropriation of half of the senators’ pork barrel, or P2.4 billion, to public schools and state universities and colleges.

“Instead of subjecting taxpayers’ money to corruption and grave abuse, we should instead utilize these funds in significant economic and social services. Education is one of the sectors of greatest need in our society,” he said. – Rappler.com

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