Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III has sought clarification from the Department of Education (DepEd) on the huge increase in its budget for its voucher program.
In a statement released Saturday, September 24, Pimentel said it wanted assurances that the cash grants would go to the program’s intended beneficiaries.
“This voucher program administered by the Ministry of Education has exploded exponentially to reach 39.326 billion pesos under the 2023 national expenditure program, compared to only 16.534 billion pesos this year,” Pimentel said.
“Why has it more than doubled? What is the guarantee that the budget will go to the intended beneficiaries? asked Pimentelle.
Pimentel noted that the budget for the private high school voucher program (SHS voucher program) was only 13.692 billion pesos in 2021, 23.93 billion pesos in 2020 and 18.756 billion pesos in 2019.
He said the DepEd’s SHS voucher scheme was among the items in the budget that had grown the most.
“I’m not saying I’m against it or it’s abnormal. But I wanted to be clarified because it’s such a huge increase that the review should not be ignored. We are given the task of being the Chief Tax Officer of the Senate and it will be a great disservice to the Filipino people if we don’t bring this to the attention of the relevant agency,” Pimentel said.
In the 2021 Commission on Audit (COA) report, the SHS voucher scheme benefited 1,107,083 students, below the DepEd target of 1,417,613, he noted.
Despite the huge increase, Pimentel noticed that the target beneficiaries for 2023 will even decrease to 1.132 million from 1.383 million this year.
The DepEd is led by Vice President Sara Duterte.
Pimentel also demanded DepEd’s explanation of a very expensive “subscription expense” in its budget amounting to 2.563 billion pesos in 2023 compared to only 24.68 million pesos in 2022 and 26 million pesos in 2021.
“This is yet another huge increase that should be accounted for by DepEd,” the Senate chief tax officer said.
Under proposed spending of 5.268 trillion pesos for 2023, DepEd is expected to receive 709 billion pesos, Pimentel noted.
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