EDUCATION Secretary Armin Luistro on Tuesday said that the public school classrooms built by the private sector and the Department of Education (DepEd) out of its regular budget far surpass those funded by the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel of legislators.
“Lawmakers’ discretion over the use of their multimillion-peso pork barrel will not set back efforts to close the gap in classroom shortage,” Luistro told reporters during the turnover of 50 units school chairs produced from contraband logs to pupils of San Antonio Elementary School in San Francisco Del Monte, Quezon City.
The DepEd chief said the education department has already included in its budget for this year and next year the construction of a target number of classrooms.
“The effect will be insignificant because of the programmed construction until 2014,” Luistro said.
He said any pork barrel funds that legislators allocate to DepEd necessarily go to the construction of classroom.
Luistro also stressed that, unlike supposed livelihood projects and questionable road projects where legislators usually put their pork barrel, classrooms funded by pork barrel can be easily verified by state auditors.
“You can easily check if the classroom was built. We don’t have other types of consumables,” he said.
The DepEd chief also disclosed that only 60 percent of the 43,424 classrooms built during the period of July 2010 to June 2013 were funded by the national government.
“The rest were funded by private companies and individuals, volunteer groups, foreign grants and even state-owned corporations like the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. [Pagcor],” he added.
DepEd said that, as of June 2010 the shortage of classrooms in public schools stood at 66,800.
“What public schools need are funds to repair classrooms damaged by typhoons, earthquakes and wear and tear from the elements,” Luistro said.
“If the pork barrel is scrapped, [the construction of]our classrooms are already funded until 2014. But if there will be donations, they can go to repairs,” he added.
Among the latest private donations received by public schools are the two kindergarten classrooms donated by actress and TV host Anne Curtis and telecommunications firm Cherry Mobile in San Antonio Elementary School.