The Department of Education defended Monday the purchase of service vehicles for its engineers, saying that this is in line with its efforts to properly equip its local offices to be “more effective and fast” in the delivery of services to students and teachers.
“Those vehicles have been procured prior to the pandemic and when we were about to distribute them, Enhanced Community Quarantine was in place, that is why we were able to distribute these just recently,” DepEd Undersecretary for Administration Alain Pascua said.
DepEd is under a firestorm of criticism after announcing the purchase of 254 pickups, among others.
In a statement Monday, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines slammed the agency for purchasing over 100 Mitsubishi Strada (4×4 GLS MT) to be used by its engineers during field inspections. According to the website of Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp., each unit costs P1,465,000 each.
ACT also accused DepEd of “questionable” use of its funds at a time when it should be providing all the basic needs under distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “We were anguished with this insensible use of education money, especially when our teachers shoulder the costs for bond paper, ink, devices, and Internet connectivity needed just to make modular and online learning happen amid the pandemic,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said.
While these vehicles were purchased before the pandemic, Basilio said DepEd should have considered the plight of the teachers who were assigned in far-flung areas first.
He added that said that the service vehicles could be better “maximized if it will be used to deliver modules to learners in remote areas, or if its funds were used for the special hardship allowance of teachers who cross seas and mountains to reach their students.”
DepEd Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla said these vehicles were budgeted in previous years under the 2018 and 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA). “The budget and procurement process happened in 2018 and 2019 (while) the deliveries in late 2019 and early 2020,” she added.
Sevilla added that the purchase of such vehicles was a “result of open-bidding procurement.” DepEd, she added, has “set specifications that are responsive to the needs” of the School Division Offices (SDOs) and engineers.
Pascua maintained that these vehicles were purchased to help in the better delivery of education services to the stakeholders. “Binili talaga yan ng DepEd para mas makapag-serbisyo at mas makapaglingkod sa ating mamayan, lalo na sa malalalyong lugar na di maabot ng ordinaryong sasakyan.”
During the ECQ, Pascua said those “vehicles were used by DepEd to help transport frontliners” and to respond to their needs. “Prior to school opening and even until now, those vehicles have been used and are being used in the delivery of modules, in transporting teachers, and in addressing emergencies,” he added.
Asked why the specific 4×4 pickup was chosen, Pascua said that the vehicles would respond to the needs of the field engineers for their inspection of school building programs in far flung and hard-to-access areas “especially during times of calamities and emergencies.”
In an Aide Memoire dated Oct. 1, Pascua also announced the purchase of laptops, drones, and other equipment for governance.
Aside from the 4×4 pickups, 183 passenger vans were also purchased and will be distributed nationwide. There were also 794 executive units and 3, 588 standard units of laptops and 490 units of drones for distribution.