THE other day, the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI), in a letter of its Chairman Jesus Lim Arranza to Commission on Audit Chairwoman Maria Gracia Pulido-Tan, requested the COA to audit the Special Education Fund (SEF).
The SEF was created with the approval of Republic Act No. 5447 on September 25, 1968. Its title says it is “An act creating a SPECIAL EDUCATION FUND (SEF) to be constituted from the proceeds of an additional real property tax and a certain portion of the taxes on Virginia-type cigarettes and duties on imported leaf tobacco, defining the activities to be financed, creating school boards for the purpose, and appropriating funds therefrom.”
Mr. Arranza’s letter states that “The Special Education Fund being collected in real properties alone is equivalent to the real property tax collections of the government in the entire country. Hence, if we reckoned the period from 1969, the amount would be already in Trillions of pesos.”
He explains that FPI was moved to make this request for a COA audit by its “grave concern about the problem of the government regarding the perennial backlog of elementary classrooms, textbooks, teachers, etc. in the country.”
We believe something is being done with the fund that prevents it from fully going to the Department of Education. Therefore only part of it benefits the public school system.
Here are the first paragraphs of R.A. 5447, which make it clear what the SEF is for.
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Section 1. Declaration of policy; creation of Special Education Fund. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the government to contribute to the financial support of the goals of education as provided by the Constitution. For this purpose, there is hereby created a Special Education Fund, hereinafter referred to as the Fund, to be derived from the additional tax on real property and from a certain portion of the taxes on Virginia-type cigarettes and duties on imported leaf tobacco, hereinafter provided for, which shall be expended exclusively for the following activities of the Department of Education:
(a) the organization and operation of such number of extension classes as may be needed to accommodate all children of school age desiring to enter Grade I, including the creation of positions of classroom teachers, head teachers and principals for such extension classes, which shall not exceed the standard requirements of the Bureau of Public Schools: Provided, That under equal circumstances, in the opening of such extension classes, priority shall be given to the needs of barrios;
(b) the programming of the construction and repair of elementary school buildings, acquisition of sites, and the construction and repair of workshops and similar buildings and accessories thereof to house laboratory, technical and similar equipment and apparatus needed by public schools offering practical arts, home economics and vocational courses, giving priority to elementary schools on the basis of the actual needs and total requirements of the country: Provided, That the construction and repair shall be undertaken by the Bureau of Public Works in coordination with the Bureau of Public Schools or Bureau of Vocational Education, as the case may be, and the local school board: Provided, further, That in cases where the cost of the school project does not exceed ten thousand pesos the construction and repair may be undertaken by negotiated contract by the Parents-Teachers Association or by the barrio councils concerned under the supervision and direction of the Bureau of Public Works;
(c) the payment and adjustment of salaries of public school teachers under and by virtue of Republic Act Numbered Five thousand one hundred sixty-eight and all the benefits in favor of public school teachers provided under Republic Act Numbered Four thousand six hundred seventy…”
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The next lettered paragraphs [from (d) to (k)]include virtually everything needed to make educating our public school children, especially in the barrios, an effective and pleasantly satisfying task for administrators and teachers and an enriching experience for the students.
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“Section 2. Financing sources of the Fund” provides that SEF shall consist of the proceeds of a portion of the taxes on Virginia-type cigarettes and duties on imported leaf tobacco and an additional tax on real property.
Section 3 and Section 4 provide in detail what percentage of the taxes should go the local government, the national government and the SEF. It is obviously a large sum, which, if not stolen, could help the DepEd and its local branches in the provinces eliminate much of the education problems in public schools.
Unfortunately, while part of the SEF goes to the salaries of extra teachers when needed and to the purchase of books and instructional materials, part also disappears into the pockets of corrupt officials.
Yes, there should be a zealous and thorough COA audit of the SEF.