Rachel Ivy Reyes 

While confidential and intelligence funds remain to be under scrutiny for unclear usage, the higher education sector clamors for what should already be a given—a well-funded education system. In the proposed National Expenditure Program, 36 state universities and colleges (SUCs) are bound to suffer a five percent decrease in appropriations in the next fiscal year. 

Photo Courtesy of DepEd/Mark Demayo/ABS-CBN News

A cost-cutting trend 

Next year, SUCs are looking at a ₱6.15 billion budget cut or ₱100.8 billion, which is significantly lower than its current budget of ₱107 billion. 

For years, this has not been news for SUCs as budget cuts seem to be a consistent trend. In 2022, the overall budget allocated for SUCs was slated at ₱71.199 billion, lower than the 2021 budget of ₱85.596 billion. 

Centered around cutting the capital outlays of higher educational institutions, these cuts contribute to the lagging student services among SUCs brought about by the lack of funding for school facilities and equipment. 

In their appeal to augment the expected budget loss, the presidents of the 36 SUCs underscored the necessity to increase the appropriations that will “serve institutions for periods longer than the next fiscal year.”

DepEd and CHED at a glance

It is ironic, perhaps, to look at these two agencies — one requesting ₱150 billion in confidential funds and the other facing a ₱6 billion budget cut. Both agencies share the purpose of providing quality education, but only one seems to be prioritized. 

“Education is a fundamental right that should be accessible to all, regardless of socioeconomic status. It plays a vital role in shaping a just society. However, the current state of our education system fails to adequately cater to the needs of our students due to inadequate financial support,” the SUCs presidents’ statement read. 

In essence, the confidential funds requested by the Department of Education (DepEd) raised questions about why, in the nature of basic education, the department sees a need for surveillance that warrants an extensive budget. The news of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) using its ₱125 million in just 11 days puts even greater pressure on the department, spearheaded by the OVP, to request another large sum in confidential and intelligence funds (CIF). 

In recent developments, lawmakers are now considering cutting the requested CIF funding for both the OVP and DepEd to reallocate resources to national security matters such as the West Philippine Sea. On September 27, House Appropriations Chairman Elizaldy Co revealed a unanimous decision to fund the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), National Security Council (NSC), and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. 

Educational neglect 

For the longest time, the education sector has long been pushed aside. Issues such as teachers’ salaries and working conditions, as well as lack of classrooms and educational resources, continue to plague the education of Filipinos. Data on these delinquencies already exist; the promises of quality education just have to be translated into concrete actions. 

Edited by Khezyll Galvan