Sen. Bam questions P100B DepEd budget cut for new classrooms

Sen. Bam Aquino questioned the Department of Budget and Management’s move to cut the Department of Education’s budget for construction of classrooms from P116 billion to just P10.2 billion.
“Napakalaking kapabayaan ang tapyasan ng halos 90 porsiyento ang budget para sa pagpapagawa ng classroom. Ang ating mga anak at kanilang edukasyon dapat ang prayoridad ng gobyerno,” said Sen. Bam as he presided the hearing of the DepEd’s budget as vice chairman of the Committee on Finance.
Sen. Bam said the amount earmarked by the DBM is enough to build just around 4,000 classrooms. Originally, the DepEd asked DBM for funds to build around 47,000 classrooms for 2019.
“Ang mga batang estudyante at ang kinabukasan ng bayan ang magbabayad sa maling pagpaprayoridad ng gobyerno,” Sen. Bam pointed out, adding that the welfare of students is important than the government’s intelligence funds.
“Hindi tayo papayag na ipagkait sa kabataang Pilipino ang pondo na dapat ay sa kanila,” said Sen. Bam, who briefly served as chairman of the Committee on Education in the 17th Congress.
Sen. Bam suggested to increase funding to around P15 billion for construction of 10,000 new classrooms in 2019, instead of just 4,110. Sen. Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Finance Committee, committed to bring the issue up with the DBM.
“Ilagay natin ang numero sa mga kayang gawin at tapusin bago matapos ang 2019,” said Sen. Bam, with the assurance from concerned government agencies that the 10,000 classrooms will be finished by the end of 2019.
In addition, the senator stressed that the DepEd needs additional budget for the repair of classrooms destroyed by Typhoon Ompong amounting to almost P1 billion.
“Kailangang gawin ding prayoridad ng pamahalaan ang pagsasaayos ng mga silid-aralan at mga gusali na sinira ng Bagyong Ompong upang hindi maantala ang pag-aaral ng ating mga estudyante,” said Sen. Bam.

Bam: DepEd must catch up on underspending

Sen. Bam Aquino urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to address its underspending to speed up delivery of needed learning materials to millions of primary and secondary students in the country. 

“The DepEd needs to be more efficient in its delivery, which can hamper the delivery of learning materials and other needs to our students,” said Sen. Bam, vice chairman of the Committee on Finance, during the hearing for the DepEd’s P613.1 billion budget for 2018.

 “There is money budgeted but not spent. This means the Filipino people aren’t receiving all the learning materials and education services the government can provide,” Sen. Bam emphasized.

 “For a student, it doesn’t matter if there is a lack of funds, or inefficiency in spending the funds, parehas lang yan sa kanya, wala pa rin ang mga libro at kagamitan,” he added.

Based on briefing materials submitted by DepEd to Sen Bam, the agency has completed only 3.65 percent obligation in relation to appropriation for learning resources such as textbooks, Science and Math equipment, computerization and library for 2017.

 “Sayang naman ang mga kagamitan, gaya ng libro at iba pang materyales na mabibigay sana natin sa mga estudyante upang suportahan ang kanilang pag-aaral. That is almost 14 billion pesos worth of learning materials not delivered to our students and teachers,” said Sen. Bam.

 Also, the DepEd only released 30 percent of its P109-billion budget for classrooms, leaving the agency with P76 billion unspent for the construction of around 15,000 classrooms in 2017.

Responding to Sen. Bam’s call, DepEd Sec. Briones vowed to catch up on their underspending and ensure their budget is maximized moving forward.

 “We’ve been working to raise more money for education in the Philippines so let’s use the budget more efficiently and ensure we are investing as much as we can into the education of young Filipinos,” said Sen. Bam.

Sen. Bam to DepEd: Teach financial literacy in schools

The Department of Education has yet to roll out the law mandating financial literacy and entrepreneurial training in basic education.

“Two years have passed since the Youth Entrepreneurship Act was passed into law but there is still no movement in its implementation,” said Sen. Bam, the principal sponsor and co-author of Republic Act No. 10679 in the 16th Congress.

The law mandates that the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) be promulgated within one hundred twenty (120) days from its effectivity.

“We need to teach young Filipinos about money and savings as soon as possible. Financial literacy and basic training in business can help the next generation overcome poverty,” added Sen. Bam, an advocate for the empowerment of the Filipino youth.

The Youth Entrepreneurship Act or R.A. 10679 requires financial literacy to be included in our basic curriculum and encourages young would-be entrepreneurs to establish their own business.

“This can also help address unemployment as it gives students the know-how to start a business, an alternative to seeking employment,” added Sen. Bam.

Sen. Bam also passed the Go Negosyo Act, establishing over 600 Negosyo Centers and counting across the Philippines to help our countrymen build a successful business as a source of livelihood.

The senator is also the principal sponsor of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, providing free tuition and miscellaneous fees in public universities and colleges.

Bam to DepEd: No to student drug list!

Sen. Bam Aquino wants the Department of Education (DepEd) to ensure that the Philippine National Police (PNP) will not get hold of the results of the random drug testing of students in private and public schools so as to avoid abuses and deaths of students.
“The DepEd, as the lead agency in the random drug testing of students, must fulfill its promise to keep confidential its results. Hindi nila dapat hayaang mapunta ito sa kamay ng PNP upang hindi magamit laban sa ating mga kabataan,” said Sen. Bam.
“Kung makukuha ng PNP ang listahang ito, maaari itong maabuso ng mga tiwaling pulis at gamitin sa panggigipit. Ayaw nating magkaroon ng isa pang kaso na may mamamatay na estudyante sa ating bayan,” he added.
During the hearing for DepEd 2018 budget, Sec. Leonor Briones assured lawmakers that the results of the random drug testing will remain confidential and will not result in the filing of charges against minors who will be found positive for illegal drugs.
“Panghahawakan natin ang pangakong ito ng DepEd upang matiyak ang kaligtasan ng ating mga kabataan laban sa anumang pang-aabuso ng awtoridad,” said Sen. Bam.
During his time as chairman of the Committee on Education, Sen. Bam got the assurance from concerned government agencies, such as the DepEd, Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), that the random drug testing will not tread on rights of students but merely to determine the prevalence of illegal drugs in schools.
The DepEd and other government agencies also assured that they will extend help to students who will be tested positive through a rehabilitation program and peer counseling.
Aside from mandatory random drug testing, the DDB has institutionalized the “Barkada Kontra Droga” program to help keep the youth away from illegal drugs.

Bam pushes for learning resource centers for children with special needs

As part of his advocacy to provide quality education to everyone, a senator is pushing for the creation of learning resource centers for Filipino children with special needs to give them a chance to learn regardless of their circumstance.

“Sa edukasyon, importante na mabigyan ng sapat na pagkakataon ang lahat, maging anuman ang kalagayan nila sa buhay, upang matuto at makapag-aral,” said Sen. Bam Aquino, author of Senate Bill 1414, which seeks to make education inclusive and accessible to every Filipino child by establishing a framework for special needs education implementation nationwide.

Sen. Bam said the Department of Education (DepEd) reported an estimated 350,000 students with special needs while Save the Children revealed that only one of three Filipino children with special needs has a chance to go to school.

In addition, Sen. Bam said only one in seven of those children attending school has access to specialized education that caters to their varied needs.

“Sadly, our country’s education system is currently under-equipped to cater to the individual and unique requirements of students with special needs,” said Sen. Bam, adding that parents find it difficult to provide their children the education they need given only a few public schools have SPED centers.

“The SPED program and most of our educators also lack the necessary skills and training to accommodate students with exceptionalities,” explained Sen. Bam.

In accordance with the mandate of our Constitution, Presidential Decree No. 603, and the Magna Carta for Persons with Disability, Sen. Bam said the measure will push for the establishment of inclusive education learning resource centers.

These centers will serve as source of appropriate instructional materials, tools, devices, gadgets, and equipment that educators can use in their classrooms to ensure that students with special needs are properly supported and enabled to learn alongside their peers.

“It is our duty to become their partners in achieving this goal to provide a brighter future for our children and our country,” said Sen. Bam, who was chairman of the Committee on Education in the 17th Congress until February.

As Committee on Education chairman, Sen. Bam pushed for the passage of Senate Bill No. 1304 or the Affordable Higher Education for All as principal sponsor and co-author. The measure was approved by the Senate on third and final reading via an 18-0 vote.

If enacted into law, it will institutionalize free tuition in SUCs all over the country, giving underprivileged students a chance to earn a college degree.

It will also streamline and strengthen all Student Financial Assistance Programs (StuFAP), making it available to students who want to pursue higher education in private institutions, as well as subsidizing other expenses of SUC students.

Sponsorship Speech of Sen. Bam Aquino on Confirmation of Sec. Leonor Magtolis Briones as DepEd Secretary

Mr. President, majority floor leader, dear colleagues, magadang hapon.

 I stand before this Chamber as the Chairperson of the CA Committee on Education, Culture and Sports to recommend the approval of the confirmation of Secretary Leonor “Liling” Briones of the Department of Education.

 Mr. President, just this week, the Senate sent a strong signal to the Filipino people with an 18-0 vote for the passage of the Affordable Higher Education for All Act.

The message? As a country, we prioritize is education. The investment to educate our countrymen and arm them with the knowledge and skills to overcome poverty is the best investment we can make as a country.

 So today, Mr. President, it is my distinct privilege to manifest support for an esteemed Filipina who can lead the charge to provide quality education for every Filipino.

 Isa po siyang katangi-tanging lingkod bayan na kilala sa pagsulong ng de kalidad na edukasyon kasabay ng mabuti at maayos na pamamahala — she is no other than the incumbent Secretary of the Department of Education, Sec. Leonor Liling Briones.

Mr. President, our nominee has always exhibited excellence.

She graduated Magna Cum Laude in Business Administration major in Accountancy at Silliman University in 1958.

In 1967, she completed her Master’s Degree in Public Administration and was awarded Dean’s Lister for Local Government and Fiscal Administration in the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus.

 In 1968, she completed her Diploma course with distinction in Development Administration with a major in Public Enterprises in Leeds University, England.

 She also completed specialized studies in governance at Harvard University in 1984 and then again in 2004.

 But, distinguished colleagues, Sec. Briones has extended her reach beyond academic excellence. She has also embraced her passion for public service.

She served as the Secretary of the Commission on Audit for 9 years, from 1978 to 1987.

In 1996, she became the Vice President for Finance and Administration of the University of the Philippines System for two years before serving as the Presidential Adviser for Social Development.

Then, in 2001, Sec. Briones served as the country’s Treasurer. And as we are all aware for the past months, she lent her expertise, talents, and skills as the incumbent Secretary of the Department of Education.

Mr. President, kaakibat ng kanyang paglingkod sa bayan ang kanyang pagmamahal sa edukasyon.

As a technocrat in public administration, she maintained her involvement in the academe.

For forty years, she served as a professor and a faculty member at the graduate level of her alma mater – the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance, which we all know as NCPAG.

And in March 2013, the board of Regents of the same University conferred to her the honorary title Professor Emeritus.

 Not one to be confined – whether as a member of the academe or as a government official – Sec. Briones was also the Lead Convenor of Social Watch Philippines where she led a civil society campaign to increase the budget for social services, especially for education.

Mr. President, her service in various capacities, not to mention her consultancy engagements across sectors, has merited her numerous awards – perhaps too many to mention this afternoon.

What is evident is that Sec. Briones has made a lifelong commitment to exceptional public service. And we are fortunate to have her serve as a leader in our country’s pursuit of excellence in education.

 Honored colleagues, based on the accomplishments alone, it is clear that Sec. Briones is qualified for this job.

 And based on my personal experience working with her over the past 8 months, I can say that she truly is champion for education – one who can make our hopes and dreams for every Filipino student a reality.

And with that, Mr. President, dear colleagues, it is my distinct honor to endorse Sec. Leonor Liling Briones for the position, Secretary of the Department of Education.

Maraming salamat po, Mr. President!

Bam eyes students’ safety during field trips in probe

Are there tight guidelines to ensure our children’s safety?

Sen. Bam Aquino said this will be the main focus of the impending Senate probe on the bus accident that killed 15 people, including 13 students from Bestlink College, during a field trip in Tanay, Rizal.

 Sen. Bam has filed Senate Resolution No. 297, calling for an investigation into the accident, which also claimed the lives of a teacher and the bus driver.

 “We need to check the guidelines. Are there tight guidelines to make sure that our children are safe?” said Sen. Bam, chairman of the Committee on Education.

 “Gusto nating malaman how we can avoid these type of accidents. This is not the first accident na nangyari in a field trip na may namatay. Mayroon nang nangyaring ganito in the past,” he added.

The probe, which will be conducted jointly by the Committees on Education and Public Services, would determine if the students were coerced by the school to join the field trip in exchange for a passing grade.

 “We need to make sure that walang napilit.  Kailangan nating alamin ang katotohanan sa mga kuwento na na-threaten daw iyong mga bata na babagsak kung hindi sumama sa field trip,” the senator said.

 Sen. Bam said representatives from the Department of Education (DepEd) will also be invited to the hearing to discuss regulations regarding field trips in elementary and high schools.

 According to initial investigation, the students were en-route to a medical and survival training for their National Service Training Program subject when the bus lost its brakes while traversing a curved highway before hitting an electrical post.

Bam eyes quick repair, rehab of schools destroyed by typhoon

A senator has filed two resolutions seeking to determine the status of relief and rehabilitation of schools destroyed by Typhoon Nina in Regions IV-A, IV-B and V and post-disaster recovery in the Lawin-ravaged Cagayan province.

 In Senate Resolution No. 266, Sen. Bam Aquino said 1,046 schools sustained infrastructure damage, 1,548 totally destroyed classrooms and 3,797 partially major damaged classrooms in Regions IV-A, IV-B and V.

 “Thousands were affected due to the change in the schedule of classes caused by the devastation of the typhoon,” said Sen. Bam, adding that the disruption in classes will last for six months as estimated by the Department of Education (DepEd).

 In addition, 63,232 units of school furniture, 386,689 learning resources and computers in 384 schools were destroyed by the typhoon, which wreaked havoc on Christmas Day.

  “Preparedness and long-term solutions are needed to mitigate the effects of typhoons and natural hazards to students and learners,” said Sen. Bam, who also backed the DepEd’s call for the restoration of the P650-million Quick Response Fund (QRF).

 According to Sen. Bam, some of the solutions include the early allotment of funds for cleanup and temporary learning services, buffer stock of furniture and computers and their prepositioning in disaster-prone areas.

Sen. Bam also submitted Senate Resolution No. 267 to ensure proper coordination between the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), concerned local government units and private sector in the delivery of humanitarian aid to typhoon victims in Cagayan.

“This will lead to the recovery and the restoration of the livelihood, welfare and well-being of the affected families, particularly the children and the youth,” said Sen. Bam.

According to reports, typhoon Lawin destroyed P8.5 billion worth of agricultural products and infrastructure in Cagayan and left 15 people dead in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Cagayan Valley.

 Typhoon Lawin also displaced a total of 143,531 people or 28,710 families in Ilocos Region,Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, CALABARZON and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

Bam to DepEd: Ensure payment of teachers before Christmas

Sen. Bam Aquino called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to ensure that it will be a merry Christmas for thousands of public school teachers by expediting the release of their unpaid salaries and other benefits.
“Nais ko pong ipakiusap na madaliin sana ang paglabas ng suweldo, bonus at iba pang benepisyo na nakalaan para sa ating mga guro upang maging maligaya ang pagdiriwang nila ng Pasko, kasama ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay,” said Sen. Bam, chairman of the Committee on Education, in his letter to DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones dated December 2, 2016.
The senator made the move after receiving information that some teachers have yet to receive their salaries and bonuses. 
“Batid ko na ang iba ay kulang pa ng requirements ngunit marami sa kanila ay kumpleto na ang mga dokumento at naghihintay na lang sa paglabas ng suweldo,” said Sen. Bam, whose office has already helped some teachers obtain their salaries and bonuses.
“Lahat tayo ay naghahangad ng magandang Pasko para sa ating pamilya at mahal sa buhay. Wala nang gaganda pa kung maipagdiriwang natin ito nang walang anumang alalahanin sa ating isipan,” he added.
As chairman of the Committee on Education in the 17th Congress, Sen. Bam is pushing for the enactment of laws that will provide teachers with additional support and incentives.
According to Sen. Bam, these support and incentives will make teaching in public schools attractive for teachers.
The senator is currently working on a bill that will provide teachers relocation allowance, hazard pay and health care insurance.
Sen. Bam also filed Senate Bill No. 173 or the Free Education for Children of Public School Teachers Act.
If passed into law, free education in state universities nationwide will be given to children of public school teachers in all levels, whether they want to pursue baccalaureate degrees or short-term training course.
The measure will provide full subsidy program that covers 100 percent of the tuition fee and other miscellaneous expenses necessary upon the enrollment of the student in a state college or university.
Aside from additional benefits for teachers, Sen. Bam also wants to improve the working environment of public school teachers by addressing backlogs in classrooms, improving facilities, and giving all public schools access to the internet and online educational materials.

Bam on chikungunya outbreak

With the occurrence of chikungunya in different parts of the country, we call on all public school officials to strictly follow the Department of Education’s memorandum dated September 30, 2016 to protect our students by intensifying mosquito control efforts.

We commend DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones for her swift action in disseminating information about mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya to all public schools in the country.

 Sa paraang ito, makakapaglatag tayo ng mga hakbang upang hindi makapasok ang mga sakit na ito sa ating mga paaralan.


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