CHEd’s P4.1 billion not pork barrel funds
This refers to Gil Cabacungan’s news article titled “CHEd chief says lawmakers got P14M each from realigned pork” (News, 8/27/14) and Erika Sauler’s “CHEd chief told to quit over ‘pork’” (Second Front Page, 8/29/14); in particular, the statements made by ACT Party-List Rep. Antonio L. Tinio that I supposedly said lawmakers got P14 million each from the realigned Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), soon after, issued calls for my resignation for allegedly tolerating the pork barrel system.
Allow me to clarify:
Indeed, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) received P4.1 billion in supplemental funds for the “Tulong Dunong” grants-in-aid program under Special Provision No. 3 of the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA). These funds increased the number of slots for grantees from 58,141 in 2013 to 423,270 in 2014, severely testing the carrying capacity of the agency.
Contrary to Tinio’s accusations, CHEd did not give away P14-million individual lump sums to lawmakers from the P4.1-billion fund. In compliance with the 2014 GAA, CHEd formulated reasonable guidelines for the administration of a special grants-in-aid program that aims to benefit poor but deserving Filipinos. These guidelines were issued in
March 2014, in adherence to the Supreme Court decision and the 2014 GAA provisions.
While CHEd welcomed lawmakers’ nomination of their poor college-ready constituents, I have consistently stressed in various meetings and fora that the nominees must meet the guidelines before they are deemed eligible for the grant.
Further, even prior to the declaration of the unconstitutionality of the 2013 PDAF and the provision of the supplemental funds to CHEd, I made a commitment that all PDAF beneficiaries would continue their studies despite the Supreme Court’s Temporary Restraining Order. CHEd was ready to dip into its funds for this purpose so as not to affect the studies of PDAF grantees. This was later affirmed in Special Provision No. 3 of the 2014 GAA which states that “…the CHEd shall ensure that existing scholars whose funding [is] charged from other sources shall continue to receive scholarship assistance…”
As for the P14 million cited by Tinio in the congressional hearing, he must have arrived at this idea by dividing the P4.1 billion by the number of congressional districts, an apportionment intended merely as an internal guide for the allocation of the grants-in-aid per district considering that CHEd had to deal with a phenomenal seven-fold increase in the number of grants to allocate within a very short timeframe.
The legislated P4.1-billion fund is not a congressional pork barrel, contrary to Tinio’s claims which tend to disparage the credibility of CHEd as the statutory administrator of the fund. With this, I hope to have set the record straight and to dispel any doubts created in the public mind by Tinio’s statements.
—PATRICIA B. LICUANAN, PhD, chair,
Commission on Higher Education
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