Press Release
January 30, 2023

30 January 2023 | Sponsorship Speech--Committee Report No. 19
Senate Resolutions No. 120 and 134 on the alleged procurement of overpriced laptops

Mr. President, fellow members of this august chamber, after conducting almost 5 extensive hearings during the last quarter of 2022, as chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, I have the honor to report out Committee Report No. 19 in relation to PS Resolution No. 120 and PS Resolution No. 134, regarding the alleged overpriced and outdated laptops procured by the Department of Education (DepEd) through the Procurement Service - Department of Budget and Management.

Mr. President, we scrutinized 5 sets of TSN - Transcript of Stenographic Notes, consisting of 1,193 pages. 3 memoranda filed, various memoranda filed by Undersecretaries of the Department of Education, former Undersecretaries, and some members of the PS-DBM, including special black No. 1 Voluminous pages, likewise, Mr. President.

The evidence gathered by the committee, Mr. President, consisted of 10,662 pages. Inaral po lahat iyan, Mr. President. We came out with the committee report consisting of 197 pages, excluding the attachments, Mr. President.

Mr. President, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected our lives in more ways that we have expected. And while we are yet to come to terms with the changes the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed us back to break from our traditional ways of doing things and transition into doing every online, including the delivery of education.

Mr. President, for the last 14 or 15 months, Mr. President, I've seen right in front of the Quirino Grandstand the temporary quarantine facilities, consisting of several container bans. Kanina lang po, Mr. President, ginigiba na yung harap nung Quirino Grandstand to show the semblance of going back to normal. But Mr. President, hindi pa rin ho nakakalimutan ng education sector ang nangyari. And as you mentioned a while ago, Mr. President, there was an education summit conducted today, which we should all support.

Mr. President, I've mentioned this, the education sector was one of the most affected - adversely affected by the pandemic. At the time of the lockdowns, the Covid baseline for the education sector according to the Department of Education can be summarized as follows and the good Senator, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, will agree with these figures:

1. Basic education had a total enrollment of 27,770,263 learners from Kindergarten to Grade 12, excluding the 21,786 enrollees in Philippine Schools Overseas (PSOs), resulting in a total of 27,748,477 learners in the country of which 22,572,923 were accounted for by DepEd Schools;

2. In addition to the learners, the DepEd employed over 900 thousand regular personnel of which more than 800 thousand are teachers. There were also about 10 thousand contracts of service personnel in the various offices of the DepEdp nationwide according to adding sum 300 thousand private school teachers and personnel. Marami rin po, Mr. President, during the lockdown period na private elementary schools and high schools na nag-sara na.

Thus, basic education directly accounts for nearly 30 million learners, teachers, and personnel, not counting the ancillary services supporting the education system, including transport, food, and other services. This 30 million figure represents about 27 percent of the current Philippine population and is 20 percent higher than the total number of people employed in the services sector, the biggest employer of the country's labor force.

To keep up with the demands of time, the 18th Congress passed Republic Act 11494 or the Bayanihan to recover as one or the Bayanihan 2, which among others appropriated an amount of 4 billion pesos to assist the DepEd in the implementation of the digital education, information technology, and digital infrastructures and alternative learning modalities, including the printing and delivery of self-learning modules of the DepEd.

A Special Release Order - Allotment Release Order, SARO was issued by the DBM on 11 November 2020. In the original proposal, Mr. President, and this came from the records of the committee, 2 billion 400 million was supposed to be allotted to provide internet load mobile internet load to some 3.2 million high school learners nationwide. However, weeks after the issuance of the SARO, DepEd requested an amendment of the project to be funded by the appropriations from mobile internet load for Senior High School students to, quote-unquote, laptop for teachers, supposedly to ensure that teachers have the necessary tools to conduct classes through online learning. But this is not what happened, Mr. President.

Unfortunately, rather than maximizing the amount to get the possible laptop for our teachers, officials of the then DepEd administration and PS-DBM, for reasons only known to them, reduced the number of laptops to be procured. From 68,500 to only 39,583. This was accomplished by simply increasing the approved budget of the contract ABC per piece from 35,036.50 to 58,300 through a new price markets survey conducted by PS-DBM. As a result of the reduction of quantity, less teachers received laptops and less students were reached and benefited from the program. Mr. President, to add insult to the injury, the laptops procured had a speed of 1.8 gigahertz, which was way below the agreed specification of at least 1.9 gigahertz.

During the course of the hearings, Mr. President, some of which lasted for more than 8 long hours, your committee - your Blue Ribbon Committee would like to thank all the Senators who participated extensively, including Senators Gatchalian, JV Ejercito, the minority leader, Senator dela Rosa, some of whom are not here, including Senator Padilla.

Your Blue Ribbon Committee has uncovered an equally contentious issue aside from the fact of the laptops being overpriced. Mr. President, the word overprice initially, originally came from the Commission on Audit using the word, quote-unquote, pricey in their report, Mr. President, in their audit report. I am referring to the fact that the Memorandum of Agreement executed between the DepEd and PS-DBM was antedated. Antedated, Mr. President.

Mr. President, again, this came from the evidence gathered by your committee, and I repeat: ang ebidensiya pong nakalap ng Blue Ribbon Committee ay roughly 10,662 pages, Mr. President. 10,662 pages.

Mr. President, based on the evidence presented during that five separate hearings open to the public, transparent, Mr. President, the Blue Ribbon Committee has reached the following findings:

1. The contract for the supply and delivery of laptop computers for public school teachers under the 2021 Deped Laptop for Teachers Procurement Project was overpriced by at least Php 979 million pesos;

2. There is sufficient basis to believe that there was a conspiracy to facilitate and/or generate an overprice which indicates manifest partiality, evident bad faith, and/or gross inexcusable neglect on the part of senior officials and staff of the former DepEd administration and the PS-DBM. While they may seemingly act separately, concerted acts were evident to create an opportunity for favored bidders to submit bloated and excessive bids leading to an overprice in the purchase of the laptops. This finding is supported by a Commission on Audit report and audit recommendations presented to the Committee by the Commission on Audit itself;

3. The repeated changes by DepEd in the use and allocation of the Php2.4 Billion from tablets to mobile connectivity loads for students, and then to laptops for teachers is highly arbitrary, unjustified, improper, and not beneficial to DepEd teachers and students;

4. The outsourcing of procurement tasks by DepEd to PS-DBM contravenes Section 7.3.3 of the 2016 Revised IRR of Republic Act 9184 as DepEd has the proficiency and capability to undertake the procurement. Further, rather than hastening the procurement, the transfer to PS-DBM of procurement tasks delayed the process and facilitated the anomaly subject of the investigation conducted;

5. The Agreement entered into by DepEd and PS- DBM dated 16 February 2021 was antedated, antedated, as it was only signed on 28 May 2021, thereby making the procurement activities conducted highly irregular and questionable. In this regard, the obligating of funds supposedly for the procurement of the laptops on February 18, 2021, without the said Memorandum of Agreement in place, is likewise irregular and subject to question;

6. The increase of the unit price component of the Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) from Php35,036.50 to Php58,300.00 which caused the reduction of the quantity of the laptops is highly irregular, it was generated from a manipulated market survey. This was gathered during the hearing, Mr. President. And the price analysis of PS-DBM which was accepted and approved by DepEd without question;

7. Mr. President, number 7: the Special Bids and Awards Committee, Head of the Procuring Entity of PS-DBM, and the officials of DepEd caused grave and undue injury and prejudice to the DepEd and our public school teachers when they procured and accepted the entry-level Dell Latitude 3420, with Intel Celeron 1.8 GHz processor despite said processor being below the specifications stated in the bidding documents;

8. Pangwalo, number 8, Mr. President: Contrary to the avowed purpose of the procurement which is to ensure that teachers will have the necessary tools to conduct classes through online learning, the Dell Latitude 3420 procured were diverted, were diverted to a large number of non-teaching personnel (about 12 percent), Mr. President. And as testified by teachers and the Commission on Audit (COA), during the hearings conducted, the laptops were too slow because the processor is Intel Celeron, which is outdated, and the price is too high considering the entry-level specifications.

Mr. President, on the basis of the findings which I just mentioned, your Senate Blue Ribbon Committee recommends the following:

  • The abolition of PS-DBM, and to require government departments, agencies, offices, instrumentalities, including GOCCs, SUCs and local governments, to conduct their own procurement as an exercise of their fiduciary duty to be accountable for the public funds appropriated for their respective offices;

Mr. President, I have filed the bill relative to this. I have filed, today, Senate Bill No. 1803, amending Republic Act 9184, otherwise known as the Government Procurement Reform Act, providing for the eligibility of bidders in the procurement of goods and infrastructure projects and for other purposes. I have a copy hear, Mr. President. Kaka-file ko lang po ito ngayon, ala-tres quarenta ng hapon ngayong araw na ito.

Mr. President, your committee, likewise, recommends the following:

  • Amend RA No. 9184 to provide for transparency and accountability requirements for joint venture entities or arrangements participating in public biddings. Yung joint venture po dapat mayroon silang expertise don po sakanilang sinasalihang venture;

  • Amend RA No. 9184, as I have mentioned, to provide for transparency and accountability safeguards during the planning and pre-bidding stages of public procurement, including but not limited to the setting of the ABC and technical specifications or goods, services or infrastructure to be procured;

  • Recovery of the overprice in the amount of at least Php979 Million Pesos as proceeds of corruption, and the amount totally recovered by the courts, the Sandigang Bayan, to be placed in a special National Teachers Trust Fund to support the health and medical needs of public school teachers and educational needs of their children through a special scholarship program;

  • Number 6: The immediate conduct of a Special Fraud Audit by the Commission on Audit to examine the various accounts and financial documents related to the overpricing of the laptops, and determine relevant accountability;

  • Number 7: Request an AMLC investigation on the overpriced procurement, including an inquiry into bank deposits of the public officials identified in the investigation conducted by your Blue Ribbon Committee;

Further recommendation is to:

  • Request the BIR - the Bureau of Internal Revenue, to conduct a Special Tax Compliance Audit or a tax fraud audit inquiry to determine whether the proper taxes were paid on the income of the Joint Venture consortium partners; and

And finally, Mr. President:

  • The filing of criminal and administrative cases against the officials of DepEd and PS-DBM which we mentioned in Committee Report No. 19

To make matters worse, Mr. President, the Committee has also discovered during the course of our hearings that as of August 2022, there are still a total of 1,678 laptops that have not been distributed to teachers and are still gathering dust in some places. This could have helped 1,678 teachers in the fulfillment of their teaching duties. Mr. President, if we make an estimate of at least 30 students per teacher, these laptops could have benefited around 50,340 students, had they been fully distributed.

Mr. President, as I have mentioned a while ago, I also filed Senate Bill 1802, abolishing the PS-DBM permanently, Mr. President. Sayang po, Mr. President, sayang.

In closing Mr. President, the author and innovative learning and leadership consultant, George Cuoros, said and I quote, "Technology will never replace great teachers, but in the hands of great teachers, it's transformational". And indeed, what great transformation we could have achieved had our public officials from the former DepEd administration and the PS-DBM exercised their sworn duty to uphold the public trust, and performed their fiduciary duty to safeguard and ensure the optimal use of public funds in the purchase of laptops for our public school teachers. This was sadly not the case.

This august chamber, therefore, is called upon to enact legislation that will not only address the acts and omissions that have led to the overpricing of the DepEd laptops, but more important, to ensure that more effective safeguards are put in place to prevent a recurrence of this anomaly which have compromised the integrity of our public school system and caused huge losses and waste of government resources.

Katulong po ng Senado, hindi lang ang paghahanap ng katotohanan. Katulong po ang Senado, Mr. President, para matulungan ang ating mga guro at ang ating mga kabataang mag-aaral.

Mr. President, sa dinami-dami po ng batikos, karangalan ko pong ibigigay at ilahad ang Committee Report No. 19 na pinaghirapan ng inyong committee.

Maraming Salamat po, Mr. President. Mabuhay po ang Senado!

News Latest News Feed