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MANILA, Philippines – Vice President and concurrent Education Secretary Sara Duterte on Monday, September 18, raised with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) the burden placed on public schools to cover the expenses for utilities and repair of damaged equipment during elections.
“The only thing left on my wishlist that we don’t know how to implement yet is the provision of free electricity and water in our schools, as well as the repairs of damaged equipment after the elections, because these expenses are charged to the MOOE (maintenance and other operating expense), which is not part of our mandate in educating the youth,” Duterte said.
Duterte said this is the same issue that DepEd faces every time school facilities are utilized as evacuation centers.
“Our teachers are the ones who clean and take care of the evacuees. And all the expenses, including the use of electricity and water and all damage, are charged to us. Everything is charged to our meager MOOE,” Duterte said.
The current MOOE budget of the DepEd is at P116.79 billion, which is 42% higher than the 2022 allocation. For 2024, the education department is seeking P128.31 billion for MOOE.
DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa explained that utilities are covered by either the local government unit or the agency. Local governments fund utilities for schools they construct through the special education fund, while DepEd covers the utilities for schools it builds.
Poa did not mention the cost of utilities and the damage to equipment in previous elections, but he said that they would look into their data. He said this would be the basis for securing additional MOOE budget in 2024.
During the 2019 midterm elections, the DepEd recorded 949 reports of school property damage, The Philippine Star reported.
Based on a Manila Bulletin report in March 2019, DepEd had been allocated P50 million for the maintenance of schools during the midterm election that year. At the time, the agency expressed concern that the national government was still operating on a reenacted budget from 2018 and it was uncertain if it would get its hands on the 2019 appropriation in time for the polls.
It was unclear if DepEd eventually got that P50 million – the DepEd MOOE is presented as a total in the 2019 General Appropriations Act.
Comelec Chairman George Garcia said that they were not aware of this issue. He said that they would consider including these expenses in the proposed amendments to the Omnibus Election Code which they intend to submit by yearend.
“If we can include that item in it, there would be an automatic appropriation for that purpose,” Garcia said.
Garcia said that the commission’s limited budget would prevent them from covering utility expenses and repairs for the upcoming barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in October.