Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel III sought clarification from the Department of Education (DepEd) on the massive increase in its budget for its voucher program as he asked for assurance that the cash grants will go to the intended beneficiaries of the program.
“This voucher program being administered by the Department of Education has ballooned exponentially to a tune of P39.326 billion under the 2023 National Expenditures Program from only P16.534 billion this year,” Pimentel said.
“Why did it increase more than double?”
“Why did it increase more than double? What is the guarantee that the budget will go to its intended beneficiaries?” the veteran legislator asked.
The seasoned lawmaker noted that the budget for the voucher program for private senior high school (SHS Voucher Program) was only P13.692 billion in 2021; P23.93 billion in 2020, and P18.756 billion in 2019.
The senator said that the DepEd’s SHS Voucher Program is among the items in the budget that got the biggest increase.
“I am not saying that I am against it or it is anomalous. But I wanted to be clarified because this is such a huge increase that should not skip scrutiny.”
“I am not saying that I am against it or it is anomalous. But I wanted to be clarified because this is such a huge increase that should not skip scrutiny. We are entrusted with the job of being the Senate’s chief fiscalizer and it will be a huge disservice to the Filipino people if we do not bring this to the attention of the agency involved,” he stressed.
In the 2021 Commission on Audit report, the SHS voucher program has benefited 1,107,083 students, below the DepEd’s target of 1,417,613, Pimentel noted.
Despite the huge increase, he noticed that the target beneficiaries for 2023 will even decrease to 1.132 million from 1.383 million this year.
The DepEd is headed by Vice President Sara Duterte who also serves as Education Secretary.
Pimentel also asked DepEd’s explanation on a very expensive “subscription expense” in its budget amounting to P2.563 billion in 2023 from only P24.68 million in 2022 and P26 million in 2021.
“This is yet another huge increase that should be explained by DepEd,” he said.
Under the proposed P5.268 trillion spending outlay for 2023, DepEd is proposed to receive P709 billion, Pimentel noted.