Question: On funding for alternative child care under the DSWD budget
Senator Pia S. Cayetano: In the last Congress, around the latter part of 2021, we passed a new law on domestic adoption and creating the NACC (National Authority on Child Care). Ito kasing NACC will now house ICAB (Inter-Country Adoption Board), [and handle both] international adoption and domestic adoption.
Alaga ko yan because as some of you may know, I have an adopted child. Ang puso ko ay andoon para sa mga batang katulad niya na nangangailangan ng pamilyang magmamahal sa kanya, and also for abused children who may need temporary homes, Foster Care Law naman yun. So malapit talaga ito sa puso ko, on a personal and professional level because ako ang nagpasa ng mga batas na yun.
Come 2023, tinatanong ko ang NACC kung okay na, magkano budget, are you ready to continue serving the needs of Filipino children? Nagulat ako na ang budget lang na hawak nila is dating budget ng ICAB, 30-something million [later corrected: P56 million]. Pang international adoption yun.
Also, karamihan naman ng bata is for domestic adoption. Hindi daw sila nabibigyan ng pondong yun, so yun ang kina-clarify ko sa DSWD na saan ang pondo, ang support? Ang pagkapaliwanag kasi ‘transition period,’ but the law is very clear. Kaya nga tayo may transition period para smooth ang transition, hindi maaantala, hindi made-delay ang delivery of social services niyo sa mga batang itong nangangailangan.
So to be clear, ang job ng NACC is to provide alternative child care. Hindi naman sila ang nagre-rescue, sila ang sasalo. Kasi sabi ni Sec. Tulfo, maraming street children na sasaluhin nila. Sabi ko, saan mo ilalagay? Yun nga ang Foster Care Law. Ilalagay mo sila sa foster care. Ang mga Pilipino, by nature, mahilig mag-ampon. Kamag-anak, kapatid ng kamag-anak, kapitbahay. So [the Foster Care Law] legitimizes ang ginagawa naman nang kusa ng mga Pilipino.
Banggitin ko lang ang amounts… Ang budget ni ICAB P56 million – yun lang ang binigay kay NACC. Samantalang umamin naman sa hearing na ang budget for the alternative child care is P220 milllion. Hindi naman nila binibigay doon. So sa hearing sinabi ko, ano maliwanag, ibibigay niyo? Dahil wala naman ibang mag-iimplement nun kundi si NACC. Sabi nila, i-implement nila, salamat kasi job ng NACC ngayon yan.
Q: NACC said they didn’t know they had a budget..
SPSC: In fairness kasi to NACC, si Executive Director Janella Estrada, talagang nagre-request siya ng funding and support. Ang kinomit (commit) daw sa kanya, if I am not mistaken, you can interview her, is 50 social workers. Pero kulang pa nga yun, kasi if you look at NACC, regional yan, lahat yan kumpleto. Plus the budget. Budget lang ni ICAB yun so paano niya pagkakasyahin yun? Sabi niya humihingi siya talaga, I believe her kasi ever since na-appoint siya tinatanong ko siya, kumusta na, ma-iimplement mo yun? Because the law does not allow for the services to stop. Kailangan tuloy tuloy yun.
Alam niyo napakasaklap, may mga bata iniwan, ulila. One year old, two years old, hindi naaasikaso, 3, 5, 10 years old. Wala nang umaampon. So it’s so crucial na mapaampon mo sila habang bata dahil mas madaling ma-ampon. Yes anytime pwede naman mag-ampon, pero less ang chances na maa-ampon sila. So time is of the essence. Of course, hindi mo rin pwede madaliin dahil meron din mga sindikato, ayaw din naman natin mangyari yun.
So the point is, matagal na siyang humihingi ng pondo at hindi naman siya binibigyan. So I’d like to believe na naging successful ang hearing dahil nag-commit ang DSWD na yung P220 million na yan para kay NACC yan for alternative child care: foster care, adoption.
To be clear lang, kasi hindi alam ng karamihan, kaya tayo gumawa ng batas na yun because medyo matagal din ang proseso through the judicial adoption. This law now allows na administrative ang adoption, kaya kailangan talaga nila ng pondo kasi ang burden ng justice system noon sa judge, sa kanila na mapupunta. Sila na ngayon ang uusisa doon sa qualifications ng parents na gusto mag-adopt so we have to equip them.
And idagdag ko doon yung issue kung natatandaan niyo, tinanong ko ang Secretary, sabi ko, I assume po na alam niyo na may shortage tayo ng social workers. Sila ang gagawa ng trabaho na yun eh. And all the other work that is required sa DSWD. Very important ang social workers, and we have a shortage.
It has to be addressed kaya tinatanong ko kung nakikipag-usap na kayo sa CHED para magkaroon tayo ng mas maraming schools na nag-o-offer ng course na ganito. Sa DBM din, kailangan maging attractive ang salary ng social workers if we really want to attract social workers to [the DSWD].
Q: Kailan pa walang budget NACC?
SPSC: Bago ang batas na yan. So before naging batas itong domestic adoption law na ito, DSWD really handled adoption and foster care sa budget nila. That’s why I asked, in this current year, 2022, P162 million ang budget. And then next year, may P220 million siya na budget. But that is found in the item that is called protective services for individuals and families in difficult circumstances. P19 billion ang budget na yun for AICS. So naka-lump sum ang P19 billion na yun, so sabi ko, bakit hindi niyo ibibigay? As far as I am concerned, 2 items yan, AICS and children in need. Huwag niyo naman ibigay lahat yan sa AICS. Ang AICS po is yung binibigay na assistance naman for people in need. But this is a separate need. And it is part of that budget. So we have to ask kasi hindi ko yan nakikita on the face of the budget. Yung P220 million na yun.
Q: Ano po sakop ng NACC?
PSC: Lahat ng klase ng adoption, international and local, foster care, and pati mga guardianship. Kaya nga alternative care. Meron pa kasing ibang alternative care na hindi ganun ka-defined under the law. Basta lahat ng alternative care. In other words, lahat ng sitwasyon na ang bata, hindi lumalaki sa magulang niya, sila yan, sa magulang or substitute parent, kasi di ba may lolo’t lola din naman to be legalistic about it.
Ang lumalabas nung nag-present, si ED Janella, nagre-request siya sa amin ng pondo, sabi ko, teka teka, bago ka mag-request, may assumption na either wala talagang budget, hindi ka binigyan ng budget. Meron kang budget, sandali. Kaya online ako kanina, pumunta pa talaga ako dito [Senate hearing], gusto ko talagang alamin kung sino dyan ang Usec na in charge dyan na why is [NACC] begging for funding for alternative child care? May funding yan [alternative child care] every year for how many years. Tapos nawala? O di andoon pala.
They assured us in the hearing that [the funding] will be released for NACC. That is for NACC.
Q: Even during the transition period?
SPSC: Yes, you know, that’s why the history of the law is also very important and I was asking the Usecs, matagal na ba kayo dito? Kasi I want to be sure na naiintindihan nila ang obligation. The law is very clear, the law says, there is a 3-year transition period to ensure that there will be no disruption in the delivery of services.
These services cannot be delayed. That’s why the law is very clear. The purpose lang naman kasi of that transition is the executive director of ICAB will continue to oversee [international adoption]. Hindi ibig sabihin na iho-hold niyo ang budget, walang ganun. Kaya iniintindi ko sa kanila, ano bang intindi niyo dyan sa transition? It doesn’t matter to me if the transition takes a year, 2 years, or 3 years. The point is, no disruption of services.
Q: On POGOs
PSC: First of all, wala naman ako doon [meeting between senators and the Chinese ambassador] kaya hindi na ako magko-comment specifically on that exchange. In general lang sa POGO, if you have a question but on that exchange I wouldn’t know because I wasn’t there. Some of the senators were there, I wasn’t there.
Q: Are you in favor of banning POGOs?
PSC: Can I also give a little bit of history? If you recall, ako yung Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means when we passed the law taxing the POGOs. Kasi, just like vape, ibalik natin sa favorite subject ko, ang vapes, we decided: do we ban or regulate, right?
So just like vapes, nag-decide tayo, hindi ban, ire-regulate. Ilagay dyan ang FDA, gawing 21 years of age, and so on and so forth. Aba, nabaliktad, pumasa ng bagong batas kung saan tinanggal sa FDA at ginawang younger ang access ng kabataan. I am against that, as you know.
So similarly, ang POGO, there was a discussion, do we ban or do we regulate? Ang gusto ng administration, the past administration, let us regulate. Job ko lang naman as the Committee on Ways and Means Chair, we regulate, tax, pak, ayan ang tax niyo. Now, nag-escalate obviously ang mga reported crimes and I am sure maraming unreported. Kapag ganun na dumadating na sa bansa natin, sila naman ang nagdadala ng kaguluhan, I am totally fine with banning it. Kasi pa-regulate regulate ka pa, hindi naman natin nako-control at nasasaktan ang mismong mga Pilipino, di i-ban na lang. I am very open to that na i-ban yan.
Q: Will you join Sen Win’s recommendation to ban?
PSC: I don’t know the details of his recommendation but I am very open nga to banning. Kasi nga, kung wala naman tayong napapala, there were projections on what amounts we can collect, pero technically no amount naman, di ba? No amount naman can justify the damage that’s being done. So again, ibalik natin sa favorite topic ko na vapes, kahit naman nakaka-collect ka pero tinanggal mo naman sa authority ng FDA ang pagre-regulate nyan at wala naman kakayahan ang DTI na mag-regulate nyan, so what kung tinax mo, sinira mo naman ang buhay at kalusugan ng kabataan? So that is my analogy.
Q: Lost revenues?
SPSC: Yun nga, that’s very interesting, kasi nga yun nga ang projections nung nagche-chair pa ako nyan around 2021-2022, but the actual collection is like 10 percent of that, mga P3 billion so ang layo nga dibba? So again, let’s be clear, ang stand ko is no amount, even if napatupad yang P30 billion [projected revenues] na-collect, will that justify the loss of life? That criminal environment that we’re living in? For me, kahit ako ang sponsor nun, I will ask to revisit the policy, right? Tapos worse pa, ni wala kang natatanggap o napakaliit ng natatanggap. So for me, very open to banning kung ganyan din lang.
Q: Through legislation or executive order?
SPSC: Actually kaya naman yan ng executive order kasi desisyon naman nila yan. Undesirable alien ka, divba? So pwede naman yan executive. Yan ang mabilis, pero syempre sometimes gusto naman ng senators to be strong about the position that we also… yung [resolution expressing the] sense of the Senate, pwede rin naman yun. But it can definitely be an executive decision.
Q: Update on F2F classes in higher education..
SPSC: Well, balik ko lang doon sa sinasabi ko, I was very happy that DepEd has made a very clear policy on F2F. And in their presentation, the exceptions to F2F are very clear. The exceptions are defined, if there are circumstances that you really cannot have F2F. Like there is a calamity in that area. And as we already know, may mga ALS students tayo and the like na alternative, so clearly, hindi sila sakop ng full F2F, right?
So that is something we discussed during the DepEd hearing and like I said, there was nothing to discuss because DepEd has been very clear about that policy.
Pagdating sa CHED and SUCs, including UP, I was quite surprised and shocked that there did not seem to be a clear direction on the return of full F2F. Let me repeat that phrase: I was shocked that there was not a clear direction on the return of full F2F. Kasi ang lumalabas after the hearing, meron namang F2F sa mga schools. Meron naman kung sa meron, pero full F2F ba yun? Once a week ba sila pumapasok, once a month? Because the reports I have clearly and sinabi din yun sa hearing [on the budget for higher learning last September 27], yung mga sciences and medical school, matagal na naman bumalik. And I said that’s old news. Huwag niyo naman ipagmalaki na bumalik na ang med school and sciences a year ago because precisely it’s been a year. What about the students who are taking GE [General Education] courses? The report I have is that many of those taking GE courses do not have F2F. In fact, completely online. Blended pa ba tawag doon? Kapag completely online. Hindi na blended tawag dun, di ba? Blended is some form of different modality. So for example, when I was a freshman in UP, meron kaming Economics 11, si Prof. Winnie Monsod, sa auditorium once a week, lahat yan, ilan kami, 300, 400 students… And then meron kang breakout session in a small classroom, that’s a form of blended, auditorium style, then small classroom. Another form of blended, which I am okay with seeing now is if there is a pre recorded lecture and then yun ang one hour na kapalit ng auditorium, and then after that, they break up the following, Wednesday, Friday, in their small groups. No problem. That is the true blended. Hindi yung 100 percent online. Hindi blended yun. Ang tawag dun, online.
Q: UP lang ba?
SPSC: UP did not have a clear direction for return to F2F because they were actually telling me the reasons they could not do full F2F, all of which I was able to…ako naman may explanation ako doon. Like one reason nga was hindi raw pumapayag ang LGU. Sabi ko doon sa hearing, sige let’s use UP Diliman as an example, hindi raw pumapayag ang Quezon City, eh I contacted Mayor Joy Belmonte and wala raw problema sa F2F. And so on and so forth. May parents daw na concerned, sabi ko, isn’t it our job to assure the parents that it’s time to move on? Kasi the example I gave, I was talking to Chancellor [Carmencita] Padilla, Chancellor of UP Manila just now, sabi ko, if you tell me that there are parents that are hesitant to send their kids kasi kinakabahan, I believe you. Meron naman parents na ganun ang feeling. Pero di ba job natin to tell them that we cannot sacrifice the education of your child. It’s like 100 years ago, where there were parents who said they will not send their children to school kasi kailangan nila ang mga bata sa farms, divba totoo yun, alam niyo yan. Ayaw pag-aralin kasi kailangan sa farms. But that’s why we said, no, you need to educate your children. And that is my stand. Higher education is just as important in our economic development and improving the standards of living of that family. Do you know that the biggest learning loss is for poorer families? So the biggest losers here are the poorer families kasi sila naman ang walang laptop, may poor internet connection. So kung ipapagpatuloy yan [blended], the biggest losers are the poorer families in the poorer regions.
That’s why I want a clearer direction. Now your question was UP lang ba o pati CHED? Well, let’s see tomorrow [next budget hearing on higher education] sabi naman ni Chairman Popoy [De Vera of CHED], nagbigay naman siya ng directive for full F2F. But at the time of the report, there were 32 SUCs that have full F2F and the rest were less.. and now from what I know, 114 SUCs have committed to full F2F. Pero I will wait for the formal hearing because this should be on record diba? Hindi naman pwedeng pinaparating lang sa akin. And I also get it from Chairman Popoy, kasi I need to see the leadership. because, bukas na lang [finance hearing]…
Q: Does F2F conflict with the use of technology as a mode of learning?
SPSC: Wala naman akong problema with using technology, like I said, kung talaga namang blended ang ibibigay mo. So for example, if you say, syempre kids have been deprived of F2F learning going on their third year. So I think everyone can say by this time, makita naman nila ang teachers nila, classmates nila, professors nila.
But on that note, if you will say, like the example I gave, once a week, F2F with the teacher, and then the other week, group kayo in school, mingling with your classmates for the group work, and then another one day a week, may one-on-one ka ba sa teacher mo, then that’s the true blended and truly using technology to have access [to learning].
There is a study, and unahan ko na kayo, gusto niyo sige sa inyo ko na lang iko-quote ang study… There is a study which I think is a no-brainer naman. When there is zero access to school, then obviously technology helps, because from zero, may access ka naman online. But if it’s a choice between F2F and online, winner parati ang F2F. Study na yan, hindi ako nag-imbento nyan. Ayaw ko na makipagtalo sa mga school administrators at teachers kasi alam naman nila yan. #