by Maria Theresa B. Panzo
Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairperson Patricia B. Licuanan denied claims by ACT party list Rep. Antonio L. Tinio of the Commission’s involvement with the Aquino government on the use of PDAF funds despite the Supreme Court’s ruling on its unconstitutionality.
In a press statement released by CHED, Licuanan explained that the Commission, being one of the agencies of the Executive Department, has been tasked to administer the P4.1 B supplemental funds for scholarships and grants for deserving students this year.
“When the Supreme Court issued its decision on the former Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) last November 2013, the function of implementing government programs and projects for which funds have been duly allocated and approved by the Legislature were specifically assigned to agencies of the Executive Department, among them CHED.”
The controversial P4.1 B supplemental funds were given to CHED for its “Tulong Dunong” grants-in-aid program under the Special Provision No. 3 of the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
Contrary to the persistent claims of Tinio that CHED has connived with Administration officials on the use of PDAF funds, Licuanan insisted that the legislated fund does not qualify as congressional pork barrel.
In compliance with the SC ruling on PDAF and the 2014 GAA provisions, CHED issued Guidelines for the use of these funds while adhering with its mandate “to ensure that education shall be accessible to all” and “to develop criteria for allocating additional resources such as research and program development grants, scholarships and other similar programs” as stipulated in RA 7722.
Though lawmakers were allowed to recommend their beneficiaries to CHED, Licuanan has stressed that existing beneficiaries will continue to receive assistance provided they meet the requirements specified in the Guidelines.
Licuanan also clarified issues on the supposed meeting initiated by the CHED in the House of Representatives as asserted by Tinio. She said that CHED officials were summoned to a hearing on August 4 through a Notice issued by the Oversight Committee of the Committee on Appropriations on July 30 as part of its function to ensure that the Student Financial Assistance Program has been properly implemented with the supplemental funds.