Hontiveros tells DepEd: Go slow on intelligence fund bid

SEN.  Risa Hontiveros disclosed Tuesday the Department of Education (DepEd) asked for P150-million confidential fund in their annual budget, which, she said, is higher than the government intelligence agency’s annual allocation.

In a news statement, the  senator instead suggested that  DepEd “focus on educational reform, instead of national security.”

“The proposed DepEd confidential fund is P150 million,” Hontiveros noted, while the National Intelligence Coordination Agency’s (NICA) proposed P141.2-million budget for its confidential and intelligence fund.

Hontiveros, however, hastened to clarify, “We do not question the legal basis for the provision of confidential funds to civilian agencies like DepEd. But their confidential fund, which they say is supposed to go to surveillance activities for the security of students and teachers, is higher even than what the State’s intelligence agency asked for.”

The lawmaker lamented that “the budget prioritization is misplaced. Let’s leave intelligence and security to the pros.”

She conveyed concerns that said that any intelligence operation to be conducted by the DepEd will be “redundant” when there are already “existing national security, national defense, law enforcement, even women and children protection governmental bodies and programs.”

“I share the department’s advocacy of making schools safe spaces for our children. These are important issues that have been brought up, but they can be coordinated instead. We should avoid duplication of functions and flagrant job mismatch in government. Hindi trabaho ng DepEd ang national security. At walang kakayahan o imprastraktura ang DepEd na maglunsad ng surveillance activities at crime busts,” the senator said.

Hontiveros reiterated her call to realign funds to Indigenous People’s education and other educational reforms in line with the DepEd mandate.

“Instead of compromising on educational programs and reforms, let’s realign funds to meet those needs. Ilagay natin ang pondo kung saan makakasulit ang ating mga mag-aaral. We should empower DepEd to focus on its core mandate of helping teachers and students,” she said.

“Baka imbes na inuuna ang security concerns, ’yung health and safety muna ng mga bata at guro ang dapat unahin habang tumataas ang mga kaso ng Covid sa mga school. Matinding education crisis ang hinaharap natin. Mawawala tayo sa focus if we burden an education agency with national security matters,” Hontiveros concluded.