The "Wisdom" of the Philippine Congress

The House of Representatives in the Philippines just approved the national budget for 2018. It was nearly unanimous. The vote was 223 to 9. An appropriations bill encompasses so many issues and interests so it is not really straightforward to infer what is behind a representative's vote. However, the process does begin with a proposed budget from the executive branch. Therefore, how the approved bill differs from the proposed budget can shed some light on what the legislative branch is thinking. Congress did make changes to what was proposed and the Department of Education had the biggest cut, 30 billion pesos. 

Above copied from Interaksyon

The cut was made apparently to fund a law that Congress passed recently, R.A. 10931, the "Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act". This law provides free tuition to all students enrolled in state colleges and universities. Earlier, when questions were raised regarding this Tertiary Education Act, Senator Aquino provided an answer to a common concern or misconception on his website:
Concern or Misconception: We need to focus on basic education before we focus on college-level.
Bam Aquino: We are not taking away any of the budget from K-12 implementation.
The budget that is allocated for K-12 implementation, as coursed through the Department of Education, will remain intact to continue improving basic education facilities like building more classrooms, hiring more teachers, and improving the overall quality of K-12 delivery.
The budget for free tuition in SUCs will come through a different budget allocation and will be coursed through CHED and SUCs. Reforms in the higher education sector are complementary to the reforms in the basic education.
Mara Cepeda of Rappler is reporting additional details regarding the cut in the proposed budget for the Department of Education. Cepeda writes, "P30 billion out of the proposed P36 billion for technical-vocational labs for Grade 11 and 12 students will be realigned to fund the free tuition law next year." Cepeda quotes education undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla who says, "The wisdom of Congress is that we have the voucher program of tech-voc, which means we have to shift from DepEd providing the laboratory services to a private institution providing it instead."

Such is the situation of basic and higher education in the Philippines. It is unfortunately a big mess of questionable education policies that are even thrown against each other. The chairperson of the budget committee, Karlo Nograles, offers a different angle on how changes in the proposed budget are made: "We have considered at least two major factors in making our adjustments. One is urgency and another is capacity. We carved out budgets depending on the urgency of certain projects and programs that require allocation and depending on the capacity of implementing agencies to really put their funds to good use." A previous post on this blog did highlight the fact that the Department of Education failed to spend 40 billion pesos in its previous budget. Nevertheless, the actual needs of basic education in the Philippines still require a solution. Simply because the Department of Education is incompetent does not mean one should take away its budget and give it to Higher Education. It does not solve the problem in basic education. Yes, the free college law is a pet project of the Congress but so is K to 12. Where is the "wisdom"?