By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) expressed concern Tuesday that the P50-million fund to be allotted for school maintenance in the May midterm elections will not materialize if the 2019 budget remains unapproved.
DepEd Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla explained that a P50-million election task force budget was originally a part of the bicameral committee agreement.
“If the 2019 budget will not be signed and approved, then we will not have that fund,” she said.
In the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA), DepEd will get P50-million worth of funds to be used for the maintenance of schools this election season.
Sevilla said that it was a “new budget item given” to the DepEd in the aftermath of deliberations on the proposed national budget.
The said P50-million election task force fund will aid DepEd in ensuring that the “cleanliness and security” of public schools to be used as polling precincts will be maintained. A part of the said fund will also be used to ensure that “all the facilities and properties of the schools” are protected. If the 2019 budget is approved, it will be the first time that the DepEd will receive additional funding solely for maintenance of schools during election season.
Sevilla noted that it will be a “big help” if DepEd will have that fund for the 2019 midterm election. “It will be more beneficial for the department if we will get that additional amount so that we will be more prepared and responsive to other needs that are related to the election,” she said.
“What will happen is that we will be using our existing MOOE [Maintenance and Other Operating Expense] fund which is bigger in amount and will actually use up some of our already existing operational expenses,” Sevilla explained.
Currently, DepEd – along with other government agencies – is operating on a reenacted budget pending the approval of the 2019 GAA. However, the reenacted budget will only be effective until March. Sevilla said that come April, DepEd will have to “coordinate” with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on how to proceed when it comes to its operational and other related expenses.
Sevilla explained that DepEd is anticipating two scenarios at the end of this month: a whole year reenacted budget and the approval of the 2019 GAA. “As we said, life will still go on even if it’s a reenacted budget,” she explained. “I think DepEd has been very resilient, flexible and agile, not physically, but DepEd is very nimble – whatever the situation is – we know how to respond,” she added.
DepEd is one of the national agencies deputized by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to ensure free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections through the appointment of public school teachers to serve as Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) for the national and local elections.