Solon wants cut to DepEd’s confidential funds; VP Sara says it’s up to Congress
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Education (DepEd) should reduce their confidential fund allocation in the 2024 proposed budget due to fund shortage for other projects, Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman said on Wednesday.
At the House Committee on Appropriations hearing of the DepEd’s P758.6-billion proposed funding, Lagman asked Vice President and concurrent Education Secretary Sara Duterte how much the DepEd originally asked from the Department of Budget and Management.
When Duterte responded that they asked for something around P900 billion, Lagman asked if the Vice President would be amenable to his proposal to deduct the P150 million confidential fund.
“For the next fiscal year, we requested approximately P900 billion for the budget of the DepEd; we were approved at approximately P700 billion in the National Expenditures Program. But may I just add for the information of all our fellow Filipinos, we understand that there is insufficiency across all departments, not just DepEd, there is insufficiency in other crucial departments as well, particularly those in the social services sector,” Duterte said.
“Considering the universe of shortages in the DepEd, which would need adequate funding, Madam Secretary, would you voluntarily withdraw your request for confidential funds with the DepEd?” Lagman said.
In response, Duterte defended the confidential fund allocation as it has its purpose. However, the Vice President said — just like during the 2022 budget deliberations of her office — that they yield to the wisdom of Congress.
“There is a purpose and a need for confidential funds in the DepEd because basic education is intertwined with national security, but of course, as we always say, we leave it to the discretion of the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the wisdom of granting confidential funds to DepEd,” she said.
Lagman also pointed out that while DepEd consults with experts in the law enforcement field, they do not give additional allowances to these officials — which means confidential funds are not used in this process.
“Our field operations are constantly in discussion with the organization of the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, and Armed Forces of the Philippines with regard to security issues among our learners and teaching and non-teaching personnel, and in our schools as well,” Duterte said.
“Do you give any compensation allowance to these experienced police and military officers?” Lagman countered
“No, Madam Chair, we do not give allowances,” Duterte, addressing her answer to appropriations senior vice chair and Davao de Oro 1st District Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, said.
“In other words, the disbursement of your confidential funds would not include extra emoluments to these offices,” Lagman replied.
DepEd’s confidential fund allocation has been a big issue since 2022, as opposition lawmakers believe surveillance and intelligence gathering are not part of the department’s mandate. During the plenary debates on DepEd’s budget last September 2022, Lagman also pointed out that DepEd should not have such huge confidential funds.
Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel also noted in October 2022 that it is not normal for DepEd to have these kinds of funds.
In the past, however, Duterte defended their decision to request these funds, saying that education is tied to national security — as the country needs to be able to craft nationalistic children.