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HOWIE SEE IT: Money well spent

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By Atty. Howie Calleja

Berthold Auerbach once said, “to acquire money requires valor, to keep money requires prudence, and to spend money well is an art”. As an idiom, to say “money well spent” implies that an expense is justified because it yields something very useful, profitable, or necessary; and honestly, when you have a sense of your values, purpose, and dreams, you can use them as benchmarks to evaluate if your money is really well spent.

As such it pains me to say that when Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno expressed that “free access to state university education is “unsustainable,” and that he had been opposed to Republic Act (RA) 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act of 2017 when he was part of the economic team in the previous government; I would always assert that this is “money well spent”.

Why is this so? Well, education is often referred to as the great equalizer: It can open the door to jobs, opportunities, and skills that aid a person not only to survive but thrive. This is why access to quality education is a globally recognized solution to poverty. Education helps to resolve many of the other issues that can keep people, families, and even whole communities vulnerable to the cycle of poverty.

At its core, a quality education assists our young’s developing psycho-social, cognitive, and intra-personal skills. They also gain knowledge, skills and proper values, and often at a higher level than those who don’t attend school. They can then use these skills to earn higher incomes and build successful lives.

“Poverty and education are inextricably linked. Not every person without an education lives in extreme poverty, but most adults living in poverty miss out on a basic education. Poor people stop going to school because they have to work, which leaves them without the literacy and numeracy skills needed to improve their situation. With little income and few options, their children are also more likely to leave school, perpetuating a cycle of poverty that spans generations. This is unfortunate because the most important way that education affects poverty is that it can help to end it” (Dr. Jaime B. Alip).

In the end, the real waste of money is the proposed ₱150 million confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) for DepEd in 2024 in the context of the agency’s anti-insurgency efforts. I really cannot fathom that despite so many financially pressing concerns our schools, teachers and students need; DEPED still wants to allocate ₱150 million to conduct a police or military function in conducting surveillance operations on students and teachers. So, Sec. Diokno is really attacking the wrong expenditure.

By the way in public governance, when a public policy is “money well spent” you do not say with a defeatist attitude that it is not sustainable, instead you move heaven and earth to make it sustainable; and guarantee that it is sustainable by eliminating hurdles such as corruption similar to the DEPED’s laptop fiasco, where the Senate blue ribbon committee unraveled a ₱2.4 billion worth of outdated and overpriced laptops flagged by the Commission on Audit. The Senate panel found that the deal was overpriced by at least P979 million.

Why question a free college education whose end goal is poverty alleviation, when you have a ₱150 million confidential fund that can build 57 more needed classrooms which costs ₱2.6 million each? So, for money well spent, please Sec. Diokno, leave Republic Act (RA) 10931 alone.

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