/ 8 October 2020

A TEACHERS’ group expressed outrage after the House of Representatives passed on second reading the 2021 budget, saying its arbitrary passing robbed millions of Filipino youth of a chance to quality education amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers said “the self-serving move of elected officials in Congress is a great affront to all teachers, parents, and learners who tirelessly work to uphold learning continuity amid grave state neglect.”

Raymond Basilio, the group’s secretary general, said the sudden passage of the 2021 budget was “a betrayal of the people’s interest.”

“We are being robbed on all fronts by greedy politicos in Congress—they are squandering the people’s coffers; denying us any chance to even utilize what little democratic processes we have to advance the rights and welfare of education stakeholders, especially the youth; and risking the already unfavorable odds of us successfully beating these crises. By itself, this move led by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is a crime against the Filipino people,” Basilio said.

The group said the abrupt approval of the proposed budget was unacceptable because it “failed to allot sufficient support” to education continuity.

ACT lamented that only P15 billion was allocated for the printing of learning modules, P35-billion short of the Department of Education’s conservative estimate of P50 billion. The technology resources needed for remote learning only received a measly P9 billion, far from DepEd’s modest request of P30.6 billion.

The budget for school operations and other expenses, where all funds for blended learning needs are sourced, suffered a 9.03 percent decrease.

Basilio said there was zero allocation for benefits and incentives of education frontliners, such as the P1,000 – World Teachers’ Day Incentive and the P500 medical check up allowance.

“After failing to allocate needed funds for education from the two Bayanihans, now the government wants to deny the sector necessary provisions for 2021. Congress essentially deserted one of its most important mandates to judiciously scrutinize and decide on the people’s money, due mainly to their internal power struggle. This is sickening,” Basilio said.

House Bill 7727 or the 2021 General Appropriations Bill was approved on 2nd reading on Tuesday. Deliberations on budget provisions for the majority of agencies, including DepEd, were set on October 8.

The group called on Education Secretary Leonor Briones to quickly address the complaints of education stakeholders.

“We urge the Secretary to condemn Congress’ blatant violation of the people’s right to safe, accessible, and quality education amid and beyond the pandemic, and to dare the President to prove his regard to our sector by ensuring democratic processes and interests will prevail in the budget deliberations,” Basilio said.