Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III has questioned the Department of Education (DepEd) voucher program which ballooned from P16.534 billion to P39.326 billion under the 2023 National Expenditures Program.
He also sought 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,” Pimentel said. “Why did it increase to more than double? What is the guarantee that the budget will go to its intended beneficiaries?”
Pimentel also said 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.
He said 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,” he said.
“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 added.
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, Pimentel noticed that the target beneficiaries for 2023 will from 1.132 million to 1.383 million this year.
Pimentel also asked DepEd’s explanation on a very expensive “subscription expense” in its budget amounting 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,” Pimentel said.
Under the proposed P5.268 trillion spending outlay for 2023, DepEd is proposed to receive P709 billion, Pimentel noted.