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Reforms sought on anomalous SHS voucher program

MANILA, Philippines — Reforms in the subsidy program for senior high school (SHS) students must be implemented to prevent wastage or leakage of public funds, according to Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian.

“A huge anomaly is happening,” the senator said.

The Senate committee on basic education earlier found that more than P7 billion was spent on non-poor beneficiaries of the SHS voucher program.

Around 19,000 undocumented students in private schools also received financial assistance.

Gatchalian said about P360 million needs to be refunded to the national coffers.

“The Department of Education (DepEd) should immediately reform the guidelines to ensure that only the poor and deserving students will receive the subsidies and reform the process so that there are no such ghost students,” Gatchalian, chair of the Senate panel, said yesterday over dzBB.

Of the 19,000 undocumented students, 4,000 came from a school in Candaba, Pampanga while about 3,000 were from a school in Metro Manila.

Gatchalian is urging the Commission on Audit to continue the special audit to get to the bottom of the matter.

“DepEd must be active in PEAC (Private Education Assistance Committee) while PEAC personality (whether a government or a private entity) is being resolved. Only the PEAC has the documents and only the DepEd can get them,” he said.

PEAC is chaired by the DepEd, but its members are from private schools.

Information established during the recent Senate panel hearing showed the government lost about P360 million as some schools took advantage of the system with “ghosts” or undocumented students, he noted.

“Under the present system, when schools submit the billing, the government pays immediately so that the schools don’t get stuck as they also have to settle payments for bills and teachers on salary,” Gatchalian explained.

“So in good faith, the government pays immediately. But there are schools that abuse the system. They take advantage. But when validation was made, there were no documents,” he added.

“It is impossible that 4,000 students do not have documents. If only four students were involved, it can still be accepted. But if 4,000, there is a problem and a huge anomaly is happening,”