PH Commission on Higher Education’s railroaded the “Free Tuition Law” IRR?

Members of the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan in one of their protests actions Image © http://progresibongkabataan.weebly.com

YOUTH activists from different school and community based organizations rebuked the Commission on Higher Education for drafting the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 10931 (the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act) without truly consulting its “major stakeholders,” the students.

In a statement, members of the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK), Polytechnic University of the Philippines Speak, Kaisa University of the Philippines, Bukluran ng Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, students from the University of Santo Tomas and out of school youths from Malabon have accused the CHEd of “railroading” the consultations for the IRR of RA 10931.

“It was not enough for them (the CHEd) that there was no student representation in the formulation of the IRR, CHEd officials treated us as mere ‘flower vases’ to make their consultations appear to be democratic and participatory. As major stakeholders of the historic law, we find this unacceptable and revolting,” said SPARK spokesperson and UP Diliman campus student Joanne Lim.

“It is imperative for students to be active in the consultations because we have serious doubts not only in its implementation but in the policy itself but in the absence of a ‘genuine consultation,’ we could not be blamed if we go back to the streets protesting to ensure that our right to education is fully guaranteed,” she added.

The activists, who attended the recent week long CHEd “consultations” at the PICC, lamented that they were only consulted about term definitions like how to define “computer fees” and “development fee.”

The activists claimed that they aspired to clarify major issues in the implementation of the Free Tertiary Education Law and raise relevant questions on its weaknesses, among which include the lack of an automatic appropriation provision and clear allocation of funds to establish a student loan program; but were not given the opportunity to do so.

As it is, they added, the financing of the free education law remains uncertain.

The groups also claimed that the much ballyhooed Free Tertiary Education Law of President Rodrigo Duterte is “a misnomer for it misleads the students, as well as their parents, into believing it will provide free, accessible and quality education.”

“Free, accessible and quality education remains elusive for millions of Filipino youth and our hardworking, and tax-compliant parents. How could Philippine education be free when it institutionalizes loans, how could it be accessible when entrance exams and retention policies are more stringent, how could it be of quality when there are no facility upgrades and the classrooms remain overcrowded and ill ventilated?” asked Elijah San Fernando, the recently elected student regent of the PUP system.

Aside from sending their statement to the media, the student leaders handed over a position paper to the CHEd, which included their recommendations.

President Duterte, in one of his interviews, admitted that the House of Representatives enacted RA 10931 without budget allocation.

Yan nga ang problema ngayon. Gusto kong tanungin sa inyo. Mag-konsulta pa ako. Ewan ko. Tignan natin kung saan. Kasi ‘yung pag-approve ng Congress… Alam man nila walang pera,” Duterte’s reply when asked by reporters how the free tuition law would be financed.

In a related development, CHEd chairperson Patricia Licuanan told the Senate finance subcommittee, during a hearing for the commission PhP 12.8 billion budget this week, that the IRR for the law mandating free tuition in state universities and colleges (SUCs) will be out next month.

Read More: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/626640/irr-for-free-college-tuition-law-out-next-month-says-ched/story/

“Historically, we know it (RA 10931) was signed in August and since then, a technical working group has been consulting and working with the Department of Budget and Management and other stakeholders…We expect that in October, there will be a formal approval of the IRR by the UNIFAST (Unified Students Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education) Board,” Licuanan told the committee.

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