DepEd’s P 370-million vehicle purchases questioned
MANILA, Philippines — A teachers’ group has described as the Department of Education’s (DepEd) version of the “dolomite scam” its purchase of over P370-million worth of service vehicles “at a time when [it] could not even provide the basic needs of distance learning.”
In a statement on Monday, October 26, 2020, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said buying 166 Mitsubishi Strada pickup trucks was an “insensible use of education money” while teachers were shouldering the costs for module distribution and internet connectivity for their online classes.
“This is DepEd’s own kind of dolomite scam,” Raymond Basilio, ACT secretary-general, said. He was referring to the controversial and much-criticized Manila Bay artificial white sand beach project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources costing P389 million.
The 166 Mitsubishi Strada 4×4 GLS MT pickup trucks, however, represented only the second batch of service vehicles purchased by the DepEd. In total, it bought 254 pickup trucks with the first batch of 88 vehicles distributed on Dec. 5 last year. The second batch was handed out on Oct. 1 in San Fernando City, Pampanga.
The DepEd did not disclose the cost of the vehicles although a check of the Mitsubishi website showed that the 4×4 GLS MT model was priced at P1.465 million apiece.
DepEd officials, however, emphasized that the vehicles were purchased even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Annalyn Sevilla, education undersecretary for finance, the pickup trucks were budgeted in the 2018 and 2019 general appropriations acts.
In an aide-memoire dated Oct. 1, Education Undersecretary Alain Pascua said it was “the first time in the history of the DepEd” that service vehicles were distributed to all regional and schools division offices with uniform specifications and designs to respond to their needs.
The purchase of 254 service vehicles was on top of 183 passenger vans that would also be distributed to all division offices, including those in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“The vehicles are for field engineers for their inspection of school building programs in far-flung areas. Only 4×4 [trucks] can traverse roads along mountains and areas where last-mile schools are located,” Pascua said in a statement sent to reporters.
He added that during the early months of the pandemic when the country was placed on lockdown, the vehicles were used to respond to the needs of front-liners and later in the delivery of modules, transport of teachers and during emergencies.
Pascua said the vehicle model had the lowest price during open-bidding procurement aside from meeting the listed specifications—diesel-powered, Euro 4 emission, a three-year warranty, a global positioning system device and antilock braking system, among others.
But ACT said the prepandemic purchase was “no excuse” since the shortage in basic learning needs had been hounding the education system long before COVID-19.
Basilio also pointed out that “teachers who were assigned in far-flung areas [had] long been climbing mountains on foot or on-board risky motorbikes. Today, they do this to deliver modules to learners’ houses. Why hadn’t DepEd thought of alleviating their plight first?”
Even presidential spokesperson Harry Roque defended the DepEd, saying that its need for new vehicles was identified in 2016, and the budget for these was included in the 2019 spending plan.
The DepEd engineers would use the vehicles in disaster inspection, module distribution and in other activities related to the construction of classrooms, he added.
—With a report from Leila B. Salaverria
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