Will DepEdâs new Strada vehicles be used for modules' delivery too?
This photo shows the 166 new Mitsubishi Strada vehicles for DepEd's field engineers
Courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors Philippines
Will DepEd’s new Strada vehicles be used for modules' delivery too?
Christian Deiparine (Philstar.com) - October 27, 2020 - 6:45pm

MANILA, Philippines — The education department's purchase of service vehicles for its field engineers has come under fire from groups amid teachers struggling with changes brought by blended learning, DepEd's answer to continuing school amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The agency had recently received 166 Mitsubishi Strada GLS 4x4 MT which officials said were bought before the health crisis hit the country, apart from the initial 88 it received in December 2019.

Its purpose is said to be for the engineers' inspection of schools' construction, as well as for its disaster management teams during calamities. 

But teachers' groups have questioned this, as they said the vehicles should be used instead to help in delivering modules to far flung areas. 

"What buildings will DepEd be inspecting these days and how often will they be inspected?" said Benjo Basas of Teachers' Dignity Coalition in Filipino. "If there's anyone who would need the vehicles, it is the supervisors, principals and teachers who travel to communities to reach learners."

On Tuesday, an education official admitted that while the vehicles were meant for other purposes, it could also help in delivering the learning modules. 

"Hindi 'yan ang original purpose for buying the vehicles. But as it turns out, nagkaroon ng much, much nobler use, in the name of public service, ang mga sasakyan," Undersecretary for Administration Alain Pascua told Philstar.com.

(That wasn't the original purpose for buying the vehicles. But it turns it, the cars have found a much, much nobler use, in the name of public service.) 

Bidding documents showed that the purchase cost P526 million in total, from fundings in 2018 and 2019. The price tag for each of the vehicles is pegged at P1.4 million.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers had said that this project was an insensible use of funds and called it DepEd's "own kind of Dolomite scam," in reference to the multi-million project of the environment department for artificial white sand in Manila Bay.

Teachers' Dignity, meanwhile, added that teachers are asked to go to schools with only minimal work given despite the limited transportation and cost of travel. 

"Pinagre-report sa paaralan araw-araw ang mga guro, kahit wala namang esensyan na gawain... pero baliktad, ang mga taga-Division Office at hindi ang mga guro ang binigyan ng sasakyan," Basas said. 

(Teachers are asked to report to schools even if the work given is not essential. But despite this, those from division offices and not teachers were given the cars.)

Pascua has yet to comment on what particular areas could be reached by the vehicles, but he has told reporters that the vehicles earlier received were used to deliver modules and transport teachers during the hard lockdown in the past months. 

Palace: Briones has Duterte's 'full trust'

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in a briefing today reiterated that the need for new vehicles were already planned as early as 2016.

But also commenting on the matter, he said Education Secretary Leonor Briones has the full confidence of President Rodrigo Duterte, as well as of the entire country.

"It's a matter of trusting the head of office," Roque said. "The president and the entire Filipino nation trusts professor emeritus Leonor Briones."

"She's our Number 1 partner in the fight against corruption, and we will continue to trust in her," he added. 

Classes for over 25 million Filipino students began this October, with issues such as internet connection, gadget availability, as well as errors in learning resources coming into light.

DepEd has pushed through with the reopening of schools amid calls from groups to postpone until the country is able to weather the pandemic, with Briones touting victory over COVID-19 when classes resumed early this month.

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