State auditors scored the poor utilization of the Tulong Dunong Scholarship program in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), the funds of which were treated like pork barrel by lawmakers in the House of Representatives.
In its annual audit report on PUP that ended in 2015, the Commission on Audit (COA) said the inadequacy of the guidelines and delayed actions by the agencies resulted in the non-utilization of Tulong Dunong’s P36.684 million budget for the school year 2015-2016.
COA said there seems to no clear cut guidelines in implementing the program because of the confusion whether or not the validated list of beneficiaries should still be approved by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd).
The 32 members of the House of Representatives who were allocated with the Tulong Dunong budget treated it like a pork barrel fund due to their discretion in selecting, screening and determining the number of grantees and the amount of grant to each students in their constituency, the COA said.
“Similar to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scholarship grants, the Tulong Dunong Scholarship Program is exclusive only to the constituents of the 23 duly elected legislators and the selected beneficiaries of the nine representatives of the Partylists,” COA said.
The Supreme Court in 2013 abolished the PDAF, the congressional pork barrel, at the height of a pork barrel fund scam orchestrated by mastermind Janet Lim Napoles with senators and representatives to gain kickbacks.
Treating the program as a pork barrel fund thus deprived other more deserving scholars of benefitting from the grant, the auditors said.
“Limiting the Program to the constituents of the respective districts of the selected scholars by the 32 legislators deprived the other underprivileged but deserving students of benefiting from the grants,” COA added.
The following lawmakers who received the Tulong Dunong program in 2015 are – Enrico Echiverri, Neptali Gonzales II, Benjamin Asilo, Amado Bagatsing, Ronaldo Zamora, Gustavo Tambutsing, Roman Romulo, Tobias Tiangco, Sherwin Gatchalian, Eleanor Begtang, Eric Singson, Bellafor Angara Castillo, Herminia Roman, Joselito Andrew Mendoza,, Roberto Puno, Eileen Ermita Buhain, Raneo Abu, Sol Aragones, Lani Mercado Revilla, Aleta Suarez, Angelina Tan, Rolando Andaya Jr., Dato Arroyo, Emmeline Aglipay, Silvestre Bello, Jonathan Dela Cruz, Abigail Faye Ferriol, Weslie Gatchalian, Ibarra Gutierrez III, Jesulito Manalo, Juan Johnny Revilla, and Arnel Ty.
There was also no memorandum of agreement between PUP and at least 10 legislators. Because it was PUP which determined the amount, the amount of grant per scholar differed from one scholar to another.
The COA recommended the PUP management to come up with clear guidelines on how to implement the Tulong Dunong Scholarship Program effectively and efficiently.
The COA also urged CHEd to expand the selection to all deserving students enrolled in PUP instead of limiting the Tulong Dunong Scholarship Program to the constituents of the legislators in order to maximize the use of the funds.
Under the Tulong Dunong program, the package of financial assistance to grantees should cover the completion of the degree program, and should range from P6,000, P9,000 to P12,000 depending on the tuition and other fees.