That the Duterte regime would rather fund bombs than books is clearly demonstrated in Mindanao, where the military is on a spending spree in its relentless counterinsurgency campaign. Here, the regime spends at least P1.2 million daily in focused military operations, all while refusing to allocate sufficient funds for basic self-learning modules (SLM) for students.
NPA reports show an estimated total of P418 million was spent on combat operations since May in three Mindanao regions alone. These funds could have produced 128,063 sets of module.
In Far South Mindanao, the regional operations command of the New People’s Army (NPA) reported that at least P66 million was squandered by the Western Mindanao Command of the AFP in its operations in Sultan Kudarat, covering the towns of Palimbang, Kalamansig and Senator Ninoy Aquino. The continuing military operations commenced on July 6.
It spent more than P200,000 in firing seven Howitzer 105 rounds; P4.7 million in conducting five aerial surveillance ops using spy planes; P336,000 for helicopter flights; and at least P61 million for the salaries and supplies of approximately 300 operating troopers of the 7th IB and 37th IB.
In Northeastern Mindanao, the NPA-Surigao del Sur estimated that up to P100 million was spent by the Eastern Mindanao Command in its FMOs from May to August. It perpetrated four bombings, and aerial reconaissance and surveillance using FA-50 fighter jets, AgustaWestland and MG520 attack helicopters, artilleries and drones. The bombings were conducted near populated Lumad villages causing trauma on residents, especially children.
During the same period, the AFP wasted a total of P252 million in launching 24 FMOs in the North Central Mindanao Region (NCMR). The attacks covered the provinces of Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte. In a statement last month, the NPA-NCMR labeled the relentless FMOs in the area a “scourge to the Lumad and peasant masses.”
In the meantime, the regime only allocated P15 billion for the printing of SLMs for approximately 22 million public school students across the country in the proposed 2021 national budget recently approved by the House Committee on Appropriations last September 25. ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said that the allocation is extremely small as it is only enough to purchase modules for at least 6.4 million students. The allocation is equivalent to only a quarter of the P51.5-billion budget needed to ensure a 1:1 module to student ratio.
As “blended learning” classes are are set to officially open next week, teachers and students are left to scrounge for funds to be able to print or reproduce modules themselves. Solicitation has now become a norm in social media, as students are not only compelled to shell out money to produce these modules but also to buy gadgets and pay for internet to be able to attend online classes.