Only 7 interpellators: Here's what happened during DepEd's budget hearing

As a form of courtesy to Vice President Sara Duterte, the House leadership limited on Wednesday, Sept. 14 the number of interpellators on the Department of Education's (DepEd) proposed 2023 budget to just a single digit.

Vice President and DepEd Secretary Sara Duterte (Screenshot from Zoom)

Because of this, consideration for the P709-billion budget of DepEd, which Duterte leads as its concurrent secretary, was terminated or concluded by the House Committee on Appropriations in just two hours.

This made DepEd the 29th department or agency to have its budget deliberation terminated by the appropriations panel in the ongoing House budget process, where some budget briefings have lasted eight to 10 hours.

No less than Duterte led the presentation of the DepEd's proposed 2023 outlay, which was P78 billion higher than its 2022 enacted budget of P631 billion.

After her presentation, Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Northern Samar 1st district Rep. Paul Daza manifested that only three members of the minority bloc would ask questions about the DepEd budget "out of respect and courtesy" to Duterte.

"The members of the minority in the House have decided that no more than three members will interpellate and the rest including myself have waived the right to interpellate in this budget hearing," Daza said.

Majority Leader and Zamboanga City 2nd district Rep. Mannix Dalipe then responded by making a similar manifestation.

"To follow the manifestation made by the minority, we'll also reciprocate with three members from the majority who will interpellate the ," Dalipe said.

The three minority members who interpellated the Duterte-led DepEd contingent were Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel, Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, and ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro. The three are militant Makabayan lawmakers.

On the other hand, Baguio lone district Rep. Mark Go, Misamis Oriental 2nd district Rep. Yevgeny Emano, and Cagayan de Oro City 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez interpellated on behalf of the majority. However, theirs were more of manifestations than actual questions.

A seventh congressman, Albay 1st district Rep. Edcel Lagman, was also given time to interpellate the DepEd budget in his designation as an "independent minority" solon.

Speaker Martin Romualdez, who served as Duterte's campaign manager during the May 2022, was present during the proceedings.

A motion to terminate the DepEd budget hearing was made after the time of the last interpellator, Rodriguez, was up. It was swiftly carried by the chairman, Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co.

Only five more departments or agencies remain on the calendar of the Committee on Appropriations in connection with its budget briefings.

By Friday, the Co-led panel is slated to end the budget deliberation phase, afterwhich it will prepare for next week's plenary debates on the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023.