Manila, Philippines — Pointing out that the education sector is “intertwined with national security,” Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte yesterday defended the Department of Education (DepEd)’s requested P150-million budget for confidential expenses in 2024.
In a chance interview with reporters on the sidelines of the DepEd’s Balik Eskwela 2023 national kick-off ceremony at Tarlac National High School in Tarlac City, Duterte said she is leaving it up to Congress to decide on the DepEd’s request, but maintained that the agency needs a confidential fund to play its role in national security.
“Because education is intertwined with national security. Napakahalaga na (It’s very important that) we mold children who are patriotic, children who will love our country and will defend our country,” she said when asked why her agency needs a confidential fund.
The Vice President did not give a breakdown on how the DepEd intends to use its requested P150-million confidential fund. Instead she said there is already an existing set of guidelines on the fund’s proper use and liquidation.
“There is a joint memorandum circular with regards to the confidential fund. It is laid out there how to use the fund and how to liquidate,” Duterte said in English and Filipino, apparently referring to Joint Circular No. 2015-01 titled “Guidelines on the Entitlement, Release, Use, Reporting and Audit of Confidential and/or Intelligence Funds” dated Jan. 8, 2015.
“And by its nature, it’s a confidential fund, so we cannot discuss how we will use it in operations,” she added.
The joint circular was issued by the Department of Budget and Management, Commission on Audit, Department of National Defense, Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Governance Commission for Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations.
The joint circular states that all allocations under confidential funds and intelligence funds “shall be supported with a physical and financial plan indicating the proposed amount allocated for each program, activity and project, where disbursements pertaining to confidential expenses and intelligence expenses shall be based.”
In an interview with radio dzBB last Sunday, DepEd spokesman Undersecretary Michael Poa emphasized that the agency’s requested confidential fund would be used to collect necessary information that would address “illegal recruitment” activities in schools and academic institutions nationwide.
“We must admit that recently, there have been a lot of intel activities, recruitment happening inside our schools … that is why we need funds to collect the necessary information. The information will be used to formulate and implement targeted projects, activities and programs against these things that pose a risk to our learners and teachers,” Poa said in Filipino.
In a statement issued yesterday, House Deputy Minority Leader and Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list Rep. France Castro hit the DepEd’s plan, saying it would put “under surveillance” students and teachers who are being suspected by the education department to be involved in illegal recruitment.
“Is the DepEd now a police or military agency that it is conducting surveillance operations on students and teachers?… It has not even scratched the surface in solving the learning crisis as well as providing adequate classrooms and a substantial salary increase for teachers as well as hire more teachers, and now it is conducting surveillance?” Castro said. — Mark Ernest Villeza, Cecille Suerte Felipe