By Wilnard Bacelonia

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa (Photo courtesy of Senate PRIB) 

MANILA – Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa on Thursday urged teachers to watch out for the possible boost in the recruitment of insurgents from among the basic education learners after the confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) was removed by Congress from the Department of Education (DepEd).

This, after Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Z. Duterte conceded from asking the lawmakers for the CIF for both the Office of the Vice President and the DepEd, which dela Rosa commended saying the move “spared the Senate from debates.”

“Sana appeal ko sa kanila is that even without the confidential funds, sana siguruhin natin na wala nang mga bata na ma-recruit ng CPP-NPA [Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army] doon sa mga kabundukan at makipaglaban sa ating gobyerno at mamatay (My appeal to them is that even without the confidential funds, we can should make sure that no student will be recruited by the CPP-NPA in remote areas then fight our government and die),” dela Rosa said in his manifestation during the Senate plenary debates of the DepEd’s proposed 2024 budget.

“We are on the last stretch of our campaign in this insurgency pero ngayon medyo nabuhayan sila, yung mga komunista dahil nga parang lumalabas na talagang panalo sila. Nahinto nila yung DepEd from having their confidential funds which supposed to be used doon sa paghinto sa paglaganap ng recruitment doon sa mga kabataan sa (but now they are motivated, the communists because it seems like they really won. They stopped DepEd from having their confidential funds which is supposed to be used against the recruitment of the students in) Senior High School,” he added.

Dela Rosa cited the previous investigation conducted by the Senate in response to missing Senior High School learners who turned out to be recruited by the insurgents.

In a previous statement, the DepEd said that its CIF is being used to eliminate threats to the learning environment, as well as safety, and security of DepEd personnel which may include sexual abuse and all other forms of violence; graft and corruption; involvement in illegal drugs of learners and personnel; recruitment to insurgency, terrorism, and violent extremism; child labor; child pornography; and recruitment to criminal activities, gangsterism, and financial and other scams.

These unlawful acts, the DepEd statement said, need the support of surveillance and intelligence gathering “to ensure that projects of DepEd are target-specific and will result in the broader protection of our personnel and learners.”

Meanwhile, Senator Christopher Lawrence Go lauded the Senate for adding PHP3 billion to the budget of the DepEd saying he admires the Vice President’s move in no longer pursuing the request for confidential funds “so that we could already settle this divisive issue.”

“Nananatili po ang aking tiwala sa ating Bise Presidente at Secretary po ng DepEd. Iisang boto lang po ako dito sa Senado pero bilang kasapi po ng Senate Committee on Basic Education at Vice Chairperson ng Committee on Finance, ang posisyon ko ay kung anuman po ang tinanggal na budget sa DepEd, dapat itong ibalik sa pamamagitan ng mga programa na makakabenepisyo sa mga kababayan natin, lalong-lalo na po sa mga classrooms na backlog natin (I maintain my trust to our Vice President and Secretary of DepEd. I am just one vote here in the Senate but as a member of the Senate Committee on Basic Education and vice chairperson of the Committee on Finance, my position is whatever was removed from the budget of DepEd should be given back to fund programs that can benefit our countrymen, especially in the classroom backlog),” Go said.

The DepEd was asking for PHP150 million as CIF but was cut by the House of Representatives.

Out of the agency’s PHP758 billion proposed 2024 budget under the 2024 National Expenditure Program, the DepEd was approved of PHP718.082 billion by the House of Representatives in the 2024 General Appropriations Act.

It is composed of PHP715.839 billion to be allotted for the Office of the Secretary; PHP290.166 million for the Early Childhood Care and Development Council; PHP230.587 million for the National Academy of Sports; PHP178.471 million for the National Book Development Board; PHP82.80 million for the National Council for Children’s Television; PHP1.364 billion for the National Museum of the Philippines; and PHP98.431 million for the Philippine High School for the Arts. (PNA)