President Rodrigo Duterte, a weaver of lies and false hopes?

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

A STUDENT organization over the weekend has accused President Rodrigo Duterte of “weaving lies and giving false hopes” to lumad parents by claiming that free education will be provided by his administration through the recently passed Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Tertiary Quality Education Act.

In an e-mailed statement, the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) and KAISA-UP both observed that RA 10931, which is expected to be implemented this coming school year, was passed by Congress without allocating any budget for it, a fact acknowledged by Duterte.

However, despite the lack of funding, Duterte last Thursday told lumad parents in Davao City that they need not worry about sending their children to college as the government would now defray the cost of their education.

“If you want your child to go to Ateneo or La Salle or my school, San Beda, go ahead. Whoever want to do that, it’s free,” he said in a speech delivered before some 1,000 lumads attending the two-day Mindanao IP leaders’ congress.

But the progressive student organizations noted that aside from the lack of funding, under the free education law, tuition and other school fees in state and local universities and colleges are to be subsidized by the State only for qualified students. They also said that there is also a Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) to augment the other costs of tertiary education.

“Far from what state officials have been peddling, there is a huge disparity between the supposed intention of the law and its actual contents,” the student groups said.

Jade Lyndon Mata, SPARK spokesperson, insists that under the law, “free education remains to be not free, inaccessible, and mentions nothing about the quality of education. It is totally unreflective of the law’s title.”

Mata also said “the mere existence of the Student Loan Program (SLP) in the law attests that tertiary education not only is not free but it even profits from students through long-term loans which will be collected by the government through Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) contributions.”

“These loans and the voucher system only reinforces the existence of private higher education institutions (HEIs) and ensure their profit while having no aim to further capacitate public learning institutions,” he added.

Student leader and chairperson of KAISA UP Shara Landicho, on the other hand, pointed out that a big percentage of students from poor families will be unable to access the perceived gains of the law.

She said that “given the current situation of the entire education system, those who came from private or science high schools are the ones most likely to be awarded free education. This scheme will not allow the students from poor families who need it most to avail of free tuition.”

“Another glaring flaw of the law is the absence of an automatic appropriation provision to fund the law annually. It leaves its implementation unstable and questionable similar to situation of the Reproductive Health law. This inadequacy is a major flaw if it genuinely seeks to provide universal access to those who wish to pursue tertiary education,” she asserted.

The SPARK and KAISA-UP concluded that without major amendments to the Free Edcuation Law, Duterte’s statement to the lumad parents “remains to be empty words meant only to simulate or project a reform-oriented and sincere stance.”

“Come enrollment time, many will be staggered that they shall not be able to access the much-vaunted Free Education of Duterte,” the progressive students warned.

As this developed, SPARK and KAISA-UP called on all students to unite, demand and work for a “free tertiary education for all.”

 

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