Lawmakers on Monday, June 14 grilled Department of Education officials for their alleged refusal to comply with the law that withdrew from the department the responsibility of procuring and developing books.
DepEd has continued to take charge of book procurement even as the agency absorbed public criticisms for the publication of erroneous and sometimes dubious learning materials.
At the hearing of the House Committee on Public Accounts, committee chairman and Probinsyano Ako Partylist Rep. Jose “Bonito” Singson Jr. and members of the House panel lamented that the DepEd has yet to take action in holding those behind the flawed books and learning materials liable for their grave errors.
DepEd Undersecretary Tonisito Umali admitted that the department has not yet identified the culprit behind the publication of a student learning module (SLM) that contained a vulgar word in Mabalacat, Pampanga.
“The definition there was made in bad faith. There should be some disciplinary action to be imposed against whoever did it,” Umali assured Singson.
However, Umali’s statement was considered to be an admission that DepEd was unable to identify the person at fault for the inclusion of an obscene word in the SLM.
The issue was raised during the congressional inquiry by Antonio Calipjo Go who said that four parents from Mabalacat brought him copies of the questioned SLM that their children were made to answer.
Written in Filipino, the portion of the SLM defined what an “aswang” which was described as a God who devours human beings and at night hunts for prey for have sexual intercourse with.
Deputy Speaker and Sagip Partylist Rep. Rodante Marcoleta said that notwithstanding DepEd’s seeming inability to prevent the publication of error-filled books and SLM, the agency continues to refuse to give up the role of procuring published learning materials.
Marcoleta pointed out that under Republic Act 8047 or the “Book Publishing Industry Development Act”, the responsibility to procure and publish books have been removed from DepEd and given to the National Book Development Board.
“The law specifically ordered DepEd to concentrate on curriculum development and avoid producing and procuring books. This role should be left to the NBDB to carry out,” said Marcoleta.
“I don’t find any justifiable reason why DepEd must insist on procuring books or publishing the same when many of the materials they are feeding our children were found to contain errors that the youth will unwittingly absorb,” he said.
Singson sought the House inquiry, in aid of legislation, on COA’s audit findings in connection with the errors in DepEd’s learning materials and SLMs.
The parytlist lawmaker said COA has time and again flagged the DepEd for disseminating study materials containing factual, grammatical, mathematical, and scientific errors, most notable of which was in its 2018 Annual Audit Report on DepEd. According to Singson the COA has disclosed that DepEd, among other things, had found various errors in some of the learning materials intended for elementary school pupils valued at P254,352,302.83 despite undergoing the review process of the department.