/ 5 October 2022

SENATOR Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday urged the Department of Education to focus on educational reform as she pointed out that the agency’s proposed confidential funds are even higher than that requested by the State’s intelligence agency.

DepEd wants a confidential fund of P150 million, while the National Intelligence Coordination Agency proposed P141.2 million for its confidential and intelligence fund.

“We do not question the legal basis for the provision of confidential funds to civilian agencies like DepEd. But their confidential fund, which they say is supposed to go to surveillance activities for the security of students and teachers, is higher even than what the State’s intelligence agency asked for. The budget prioritization is misplaced. Let’s leave intelligence and security to the pros,” the senator said.

Hontiveros said that any intelligence operation to be conducted by the DepEd will be redundant when there are already existing national security, national defense, law enforcement and women and children protection government bodies.

“I share the department’s advocacy of making schools safe spaces for our children. These are important issues that have been brought up, but they can be coordinated instead. We should avoid duplication of functions and flagrant job-mismatch in government. Hindi trabaho ng DepEd ang national security. At walang kakayahan o imprastraktura ang DepEd na maglunsad ng surveillance activities at crime busts,” she said.

Hontiveros reiterated her call to realign funds to indigenous people’s education and other educational reforms in line with the DepEd mandate.

“Ilagay natin ang pondo kung saan makakasulit ang ating mga mag-aaral. We should empower DepEd to focus on its core mandate of helping teachers and students,” she said.

“Baka imbes na inuuna ang security concerns, yung health and safety muna ng mga bata at guro ang dapat unahin habang tumataas ang mga kaso ng Covid sa mga school. Matinding education crisis ang hinaharap natin. Mawawala tayo sa focus if we burden an education agency with national security matters,” Hontiveros added.