Press Release
August 26, 2022


Q: School opening assessment. It wasn't really the first week because two days of no school, how was it so far?

SEN. WIN: Generally Pinky, it went smoothly and I have to give credit to the pilot testing program that DepEd instituted last November. If you remember last year in November, they started a pilot testing program so that principals, teachers and superintendents will learn and will know how to navigate through the pandemic and that really helped them a lot in terms of preparation, in terms of adapting to the situation. And generally, of course, there are some issues with classrooms, especially in urban areas with flooding, but generally, it went smoothly.

Q: What were the concerns? I know there's a lot to talk about here. But to you, as Chairman of the Committee on basic education, what were the concerns that need to be addressed to the soonest possible time and doable.

SEN. WIN: Well, the first one is the pandemic of course. We're still navigating through the pandemic and with cases of overcrowded classrooms, especially in urban areas in the provinces, Pinkie, we don't have a problem. I saw the student classroom ratio there. It's about 30 students per classroom, but here in the metro area in the urban centers, it's a problem. In fact, in Valenzuela, some of our senior high school classrooms go as high as 60 students per classroom. So that's a cause for concern. And we have to identify those areas, build more classrooms or build temporary facilities.

Q: And so what are you guys doing in Valenzuela? Your brothers are there?

SEN. WIN: Correct. So we're building more classrooms, but in the short term, we're actually building makeshift classrooms so that it will not be crowded. During a pre pandemic situation, that is quite acceptable. But now because it's pandemic, we cannot have overcrowded classrooms. So we try to decongest classrooms by using unused facilities and building makeshift classrooms.

Q: But for example, I think another problem, okay, we need more classrooms definitely, that needs to be addressed. What about schools now? It is the rainy season Sir, they will be used as evacuation centers which was done very recently because of the Typhoon Florita. How do we manage or how do the teachers, the parents, the local government officials and the students manage when schools are still being used in evacuation centers during typhoon?

SEN. WIN: That's a very good question, Pinky. It's a tug of war between the local government unit and the superintendent of the district. It's always that's the case even in Valenzuela because I understand the mayors for example there's fire, there's flooding. The first instinct of a mayor is to evacuate their constituents and put them in a safe place. Typically because the schools are near to the communities, that is the safest place. But then again, it hampers the education of students. So moving forward, I propose to build evacuation centers, permanent evacuation centers that can double up as repacking centers, and multipurpose facilities. Of course, it will cost money, but that's the only way we can do away with using the classrooms as evacuation centers.

Q: So evacuation centers for who, for every LGU?

SEN. WIN: For every LGU. The DPWH started this under Senator Mark Villar when he was a secretary, a few years ago. They started building evacuation centers in the Bicol area because those are typhoon prone areas. So they started building that so that they will do away with using classrooms as evacuation centers.

Q: So the evac centers there will be either multipurpose or gymnasiums?

SEN. WIN: It's multipurpose, it can be used for repacking. If you don't need it, it can be used for activities, it can be used for training. So it's not all the time we have floods and volcano eruptions. So in the time that the evacuation centers are not being used, it can be used for other activities.

Q: As you mentioned a while ago, you need money for this. How much do you need? And where will you get the money?

SEN. WIN: Actually, we just have to identify calamity prone areas, for example, the eastern seaboard of the country. In Metro Manila, it's normally flooding and fire. We just have to identify it so it will be strategic because we don't have enough funds to build every single school in every city.

Q: So we prioritize?

SEN. WIN: We prioritize.

Q: Where's the funding gonna come from it?

SEN. WIN: The funding will come from either the Quick Response Fund, or the NDRRMC fund. I know it's not enough, but we have to start planning that at least for the next few years.

Q: But you need to start planning that four years ago, five years ago, Sir di ba?

SEN. WIN: Long time ago, long time ago. So that's why the DPWH during the last administration has started doing that. It's really affecting the education of our children. So you have double whammy. They get evacuated. And the rest of the students cannot study because the classroom is being used as evacuation centers.

Q: In fact, when the President ordered the two day suspension of classes, the next day, there wasn't really a lot of rain and people were saying sayang naman nag-suspend pa. But some people didn't know that actually that day was also being used to clean the classrooms because they were being used as evacuation centers. So that needs to be addressed. I was able to speak to Congressman Roman Romolo during our special, we were hoping to have him back then, but you couldn't make it. So he said something very important, he said we really need to start going back to basics. So sabi niya Grades 1 to 3 Reading, reading, reading, yun daw ang important kasi right now there are about six to seven subjects and I saw your tweet, and you said reading and math. Ano ho ba talaga nangyayari sa Grades 1 to 3?

SEN. WIN: I definitely agree with Congressman Roman Romulo. And he's attuned to what's happening on the ground, especially with our kindergarten students until grade three. I agree with him that let's go back to basics. Emphasize on reading, emphasize also on Math because these are two foundational skills that students will use for the rest of their lives. Reading is a basic skill that they need to learn and strengthen. You cannot go to history, you cannot go to complicated subjects without knowing how to read and Mathematics is the foundation for science and innovation. So we need to strengthen that. And we both agreed that we will come up with measures to strengthen reading and math in the kindergarten to grade three and look at how to decongest our curriculum. Many experts think we are saying that we're teaching too much to our students, to the kids. The impact there is they don't have enough time to study. For teachers, they have the same thing. If you ask any teacher, they'll say they're giving us so many things to teach the students and we don't have time to prepare what to teach. And many experts are saying we have to decongest the curriculum. Actually, we decongested it by 60%. But there's still room to decongest so that students will have enough time to study and teachers will have enough time to prepare.

Q: So he told me that grades 1 to 3 have about six to seven subjects which is burdensome, what is a standard by which the students could have time studying and the teachers also?

SEN. WIN: We really need to study the curriculum as a whole. We cannot just say oh, let's subtract grade one, grade two subjects, because that will impact the grade four, grade five, grade six and so on subjects. So we have to look at it as a whole. But the concept there is to give more time for math and reading for kindergarten to grade three, so that they will develop the skills that they need in order to succeed in the next grade level.

Q: And when can you possibly have this modified? or improved curriculum?

SEN. WIN: This is actually a low hanging fruit and we suggested to DepEd that they have to look at the entire curriculum already. And this is a low hanging fruit that they can adjust and tweak. But they have to study it very carefully. This is a meticulous process and a scientific process for that matter. And we cannot just say, oh, let's remove this subject because it will impact the other subjects. So we have to also approach it scientifically.

Q: Do they agree? That's number one, is it really six to seven subjects? I asked because I don't know. And number two, does DepEd agree that it's too much for most kids?

SEN. WIN: Actually, it's seven subjects for grade one and grade two and eight subjects for grade three. And you have to ask the teachers, because at the end of the day, the teacher delivers all of these subjects to the student. And we have to know if the teacher is delivering it efficiently and she or he will have time to deliver it properly. And most of the teachers that I've talked to said that it's too much for them. Because for example, English, they're only given 50 minutes a day to teach it. And if you're teaching 30 to 40 students a day that's going to be very difficult. That's why they're requesting to decongest the curriculum. And when they say decongest we have to look at the entire curriculum so that everything will be in smooth transition.

Q: Let's talk about the hearing yesterday. Were you there?

SEN. WIN: Yes.

Q: Blue Ribbon Committee hearing. Okay. We're gonna do a bit of a summary on this, Sir, please correct me if I'm wrong. We're talking about P2.4 billion worth of what the COA says overpriced and outdated laptops. So in summary during the hearing, it came out that the DepEd had a budget of P35,000 at 1.9 gigahertz. And when it passed on to the PS-DBM, they said oh, no, no, no, let's not do it P35,000, let's do it P58,000 at 1.2 gigahertz. And then here are the resource persons former DepEd Undersecretary Pascua was actually saying that it was information communications technical director Abanil who signed the action slip. Yung action slips, imbes na 35 ginawang 58. And so less computers. Pero ang sabi nya, sabi po Director Abanil, may go signal naman daw ni Undersecretary Pascua. Pero ang sinabi ni Pascua, he only agreed to the lesser quantity kasi kapag tumaas ang presyo kokonti ang mga computer. Sir, ano po ba ang nangyari dito?

SEN. WIN: Tama si Sen. Pimentel, turuan ang daming turuan. When everything goes haywire, dyan makikita mo na ang turuan. And when there's turuan, there's a problem. My first instinct, Pinky, when this came out was to ask Valenzuela because Valenzuela also bought laptops over the past few years because of online learning and Valenzuela bought about 4,400 laptops using local government funds. Valenzuela bought a 3.2 gigahertz laptop for P19,900. 1/3 of the price of the P58,000.

Q: What year?

SEN. WIN: This year actually. Sometime May of this year. So, in other words, the basic there is, it's faster, cheaper. While in the PS-DBM purchase it was slower at 1.8 gigahertz at P58,000 at 1.8 gigahertz. Clearly there's a problem. And clearly, someone made money out of this. In my opinion, you don't make this big of a mistake because yesterday what we're getting from the PS-DBM is a lot of honest mistakes. But this is a P2.4 billion honest mistake which is not acceptable.

Q: Can you define to me what an honest mistake is?

SEN.WIN: Because we probe into the details. The senators probe the details. I looked at the process of gathering price analysis because the first step is to gather price analysis, to know exactly how much is the amount. So we found out that there is no process in the price analysis. A person was just given a lot of discretion. In fact, I asked the person who was in charge, a certain Engineer Amil and the request of DepEd for the PC is to buy 60,000 plus personal computers. But we found that he sent requests for quotations to a supplier who supplies purely Mac computers. So it's like requesting Toyota parts but you asked Mitsubishi suppliers to quote, which is unusual. And in my opinion, this type of modus is actually eliminating competition. So the person in charge is making it appear that there is a fair invitation to quote. But well in fact, they're eliminating competition so that it will narrow down to a few suppliers and jack up the price. So from P32,000 requests of DepEd, it went up to P58,000 because they narrowed down to the most expensive suppliers.

Q: So prinocess of elimination nila ang supplier ng laptops.

SEN. WIN: Correct. Kasi may mga mura eh, tinanggal nila ang mga mura. Naiwan ang pinakamahal and they said ah yan pala ang presyo.

Q: But sino, Sir. Yun ang tanong kasi there are two entities here DepEd and the PS-DBM. So yung sabi ng DepEd, I'm going to simplify it. Kailangan namin ng computer less than P40,000. Oh eto PS-DBM, tama ho ba ang sabi ng PS-DBM oh eto nahanap ko na ang computer pero P58,000. Sabi ng DepEd, go so binili ng PS-DBM so sino po ang may problema?

SEN. WIN: Well, definitely, Pinky, the whole reason for giving it to PS-DBM is number one to get cheaper price, number two, faster and then number three, it's more transparent. Clearly, these are not being achieved. The computers that they bought were more expensive. It's not efficient. It took time for them, almost a year now to conduct the bidding. And then number three, it's not transparent because we don't know how they conducted the whole process, especially on the request for quotation. So in my opinion...

Q: Who was lying here? Who is liable, Sir? Does it go up to the DepEd Secretary?

SEN. WIN: Both departments, first of all, DepEd should be accountable, because that is their money that they gave to another department. They cannot just say na DBM ang nag-bid so we're not accountable. They should be accountable to that. We're still in the process of finding who and tracing the paper trail. Number two, PS-DBM is also accountable because they are the ones who conducted the actual bidding. So both agencies are accountable, but we're now in the process of investigating and tracking who are the people, who are the persons involved in this whole fiasco.

Q: But did Secretary Briones make a point by saying that basically sa dami ng ginagawa nila this is a big amount, which the PS-DBM, they handed over to the PS-DBM because basically yun din naman ang kanilang role. Nagkamali ba o may sapat na rason ba ang DepEd na hindi na kami ang bibili nito, ipapasa na lang namin sa PS-DBM?

SEN. WIN: There's logic for giving it to PS-DBM. The logic there is they are much better than us in terms of procurement. They can buy cheaper, they can buy it faster, but clearly this is not the case. They bought a much more expensive laptop with lesser specifications and it took time for them to bid it out.

Q: But Christopher Lao was saying, there were two things he said, the qualifications of DepEd, they wanted a warranty. Baka naman Sir, for the sake of argument kapag warranty may dagdag. Number two, it was COVID, there was a dearth of supply kulang po ang supply kaya nagtaas po ang presyo.

SEN. WIN: I won't buy that because during COVID, in fact, because of online learning there was a surge in buying all of these gadgets.

Q: Exactly kaya raw nagmahal.

SEN. WIN: Even Valenzuela managed to buy this type of equipment.

Q: That's why I was asking you kelan, sabi nyo po 2022 because ang sabi nila dito 2019 yung pinasa ni DepEd kay PS-DBM, 2020.

SEN. WIN: Pero hindi naman nila nabili during that time.

Q: 2020 nila nabili, hindi ho ba?

SEN. WIN: No, no, it took them 2021. Almost a year after or even even longer when they bought it. So my point of the matter is, personally, looking at the setup in PS-DBM, I clearly believe that there's something wrong with their procedures and people are taking advantage of that. And I clearly believe that probably may sindikato operating inside PS-DBM, taking advantage of the loopholes.

Q: Probably sir?

SEN. WIN: That's my own take for now, because from the investigation that I saw yesterday, I don't buy the honest mistake, because this is a P2.4 billion deal and there's so many inconsistencies. Senator Francis saw a cut and paste contract. Senator Pimentel saw a cut and paste price analysis.

Q: The cut and paste you're talking about was the Food and Drug Administration entry?

SEN. WIN: Correct. If you are seeing that PS-DBM is much better, and is an expert in procurement, these things should not happen. Because you're the expert, binibigay namin ang pera sa iyo. You are more meticulous, you're more efficient. You're an expert in that but if you're seeing that there's so many honest mistakes, there's so many wrong documentation, you're not better than any of the departments. So what's the point?

Q: I heard Senator Alan Cayetano say honest corruption which made me think what is an honest corruption but anyway, last question on this because I know the hearing will proceed on Tuesday, kailangan pa ho ba talaga ng PS-DBM?

SEN. WIN: From what I'm seeing right now, like I said, the contract ang daming mga mali. The canvas sheet, it's copied, cut and paste, anyone can do cut and paste. The process they're saying, there's so many loopholes, even the new OIC saying reforms are needed. Then, if you are not doing your procurement any better than any of the agencies, then there's no point in your existence. Might as well give it to the agencies because they can probably do it better.

Q: Can they? Do they have time sir?

SEN. WIN: Pinky, even the barangay has Bids and Awards Committee. All the LGUs, 1,500 LGUs, have their own BAC committees. The barangay, they have their own BAC committees. The provinces have their own BAC committees. If these little political units can do bids and awards, then the big departments can do it also.

Q: But what tells you that they are doing it right because the only reasons, you found out or we found out about this two point plus billion is because of the COA audit.

SEN. WIN: Correct, correct. Well, these political units are also being COA audited. All of these.

Q: Because they have a representative in COA.

SEN. WIN: Yes.

Q: But you know this is a massive scale, probably competitive.

SEN. WIN: The whole point is for PS-DBM, they can do it better than the departments. They're much more meticulous, and much more efficient.

Q: So what? Should it be abolished? Or should it just be?

SEN. WIN: Well, in my opinion, seeing from what happened yesterday, I don't see the point of its existence.

Q: So abolish it.

SEN. WIN: Just give it to the department, make them accountable. Pera mo yan, ikaw ang bumili. Pag may mali ikaw ang may accountability diyan.

Q: Senator Win Gatchalian, K to 12 Sir, pag-aaralan nyo ho ba ito? Time to review, abolish what?

SEN. WIN: I've talked to Congressman Roman, who's my counterpart and we're going to start the review of the K to 12. We're looking at the entire gamut of K to 12. From kindergarten to grade three to senior high school, especially senior high school, a lot of our promises for K to 12 is not being realized. One of which is employment. We also detected and found out that there's no linkage within industry and the senior high school, there's virtually zero. So we're actually training our Senior High School with skills that are not relevant to the industry. That's why they're unemployed and that's why they want to go to college. But the promise of K to 12 is we'll give you skills. We'll give you the certification, NC I and NC II, you can get a job. But clearly that's not happening.

Q: Also, I want to bring this in because this is important. The budget of P5.2 trillion. It was submitted already to House Speaker Martin Romualdez. I want to, this is very important because although I know there's a lot of haggling, that will still happen. Yung budget ng DepEd sabi nila shall increase from P633, this is just DepEd, this does not include CHED. This year to P710 billion. Basically, that's a deficit of about 130 billion because they were asking for 800 Plus. Senator, you think that they need to get the full amount because this is where you probably will have problems with teachers, lack of classrooms, etc.

SEN. WIN: It's good that the Vice President is there because we need her political capital to move things. In the past, even though we gave them a lot of money, the classrooms are still not being built by DepEd. The teachers go through a series of paperwork before they get hired. CSC is one. A lot of the funds that were given are actually not being used because of this bureaucracy. So now that the Vice President is there, she can actually use her political capital to institute reforms in this process. So I do agree that we need to increase the budget for school buildings because we're now pushing face to face classes and I think DepEd is requesting about P80 billion to fulfill all the backlogs and to construct all the classrooms that were damaged, and then teachers, especially what they call para-teachers or teacher aides. The teachers are overworked. Under the rules, they're only allowed to work, teach six hours and work on eight hours to do preparation. But they work more than that because of the other non-teaching responsibilities. So to decongest their time, to have more time to teach students, more time to prepare for the lesson plans, we need to give them teacher aides or para-teachers.

Q: Those are what they're called.

SEN. WIN: Yeah, teacher aides and para-teachers.

b: Sorry, so do we have them now?

SEN. WIN: We have them now but not a lot. I know our teachers are really requesting for those. So that in the classroom they will have a teacher aide who can help them with the students.

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