CHEd’s ‘pork’ realigned to free tuition program
MANILA, Philippines — Say goodbye to the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHEd) Tulong-Dunong program.
On Wednesday, the Senate decided to realign the proposed P3 billion budget allotted for the program next year to the free tuition program, which is also under CHEd.
The P3 billion budget for Tulong-Dunong was separate from the proposed P43.308 billion allocation of the agency’s free tuition program.
This, after Senator Panfilo Lacson insisted during plenary debates in the Senate that the fund for the Tulong-Dunong program was “pork.”
To prove his claim, Lacson read a portion of a lawmaker’s letter endorsing an official, who would “facilitate the coordination of the application for scholarship grants.”
“This is implementation, if this is not implementation (of a project), tell me what is, Mr. President,” he said.
Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, explained that it should be the CHEd, the state universities and colleges, and the higher educational institutions that should implement Tulong-Dunong.
“If I were to put Tulong- Dunong as an amendment, I will not name the beneficiaries in a college or a university. Let the CHEd implement it,” she said.
Lacson then questioned why lawmakers identify the beneficiaries.
“As a matter of fact, some legislators are even distributing the checks themselves…” he said.
“Ah, I don’t know that. I’ve never done that in my three terms so I’m not in a position to answer that,” Legarda said.
“Is that pork or not,” Lacson asked.
“I think it’s lechon,” Legarda said.
“Yeah, it’s lechon, it’s pork. If it looks like pork, smells like pork, chopped like pork, then it must be pork,” Lacson said again.
Despite this, Legarda insisted that the program should not be abolished, saying the alleged abuse of fund by some lawmakers was just “isolated incidents.”
“It pains me to abolish the Tulong-Dunong which has been there for decades before I joined this chamber just because there are abusive personalities who go with the photo ops of the checks and letters to the CHEd,” she said.
“Because it’s the Constitution, Mr. President,” Lacson simply said.
After a long debate, the senators finally agreed to just transfer the P3 billion fund for Tulong-Dunong program to CHEd’s free tuition program.
After all, Lacson said the free tuition program can be considered a “big Tulong-Dunong” anyway. /je
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