Scholars ‘collateral damage’ in pork rage

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10:51 PM September 19th, 2013

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September 19th, 2013 10:51 PM

DIGOS CITY—The Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) is now reviewing the list of scholars, which a top University of the Philippines professor described as collateral damage in the rage against pork barrel, that legislators claim to be supporting through public funds credited to their pork.

Prospero de Vera, professor at the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance, has been interviewed on TV saying the scholars are collateral damage in the pork scandal.

De Vera has repeatedly said without pork, the burden of sending to school at least 6.4 million youths who rely on free education will fall on local government units (LGUs).

“The budget of these LGUs can barely pay for salaries and operating expenses, and their needs tend to fall out of the radar screen of national and provincial authorities,” De Vera said in a recent TV interview.

“A reduction in the pork barrel coupled with a reduction in their IRA (Internal Revenue Allotment) will be disastrous to poor communities,” he said.

“While there is no question that there are many examples of bad pork there are also many innovative PDAF projects that fulfill constituency needs,” he added.

The CHEd is in charge of implementing the District Study Grant Program of legislators. The program allows legislators to use their pork to finance scholarships for their constituents.

In Davao del Sur, Gov. Claude Bautista said he has to draw money from his personal funds to pay for the tuition of at least 1,000 college scholars in the first district alone, who were being sent to school by the provincial government, so they could take their final exams.

Bautista owns several hundreds of hectares of banana plantations in Malita town.

He said the provincial government started defaulting on tuition payments as only some P1.4 million had been left in its coffers for scholars.

A search of the Department of Budget and Management’s pork barrel pages revealed that under former 1st district Rep. Marc Cagas, P2 million had been earmarked for scholarships each year.

Bautista said amid public outrage over pork, he would try to find ways to fund the scholarship program.

In Maguindanao, dozens of students are also affected by the pork outrage. This week, dozens of students were seen queuing outside the CHEd Central Mindanao office in Koronadal City for promissory notes that they would show to their schools as a requirement for taking exams. Orlando B. Dinoy and Nash B. Maulana, Inquirer Mindanao

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