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A call to end the uncertainty on the PH Free Tertiary Education Law

THE Free Eduk Watch, a coalition of progressive student organizations, on Wednesday asked the Philippine Commission on Higher Education to immediately release the Implementing Rules and Regulation of Republic Act 10931, otherwise known as the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education, to end the prevailing uncertainty concerning the law’s coverage of its supposed beneficiaries.

The free tertiary education law is supposed to provide universal free access to college education to all high school graduates. However, the implementation of the intent of the law has been put ito doubt following President Rodrigo Duterte’s admission that there is not enough budget allocation for RA 10931, (Read More: http://beyonddeadlines.com/2018/02/04/president-rodrigo-duterte-a-weaver-of-lies-and-false-hopes/) and the CHEd’s last year’s announcement that only a limited number of community colleges are accredited hence covered by the UAQTE.

To top it up, the CHEd also failed to live up to its promise to release today the much awaited IRR.

“They could not make us blind forever. The fate of millions lie in the transparency and sincerity of the CHEd to provide universal access to college education for all Filipino youth as the law claims to provide,” said Free Eduk Watch convenor and KAISA-UP chairperson Shara Landicho.

Landicho said the list of accredited schools should be made public soon “to end the atmosphere of uncertainty and continued spreading of a false sense of security.”

It will be recalled that the CHEd announced late last year that only 23 of the country’s 118 community colleges are accredited and will benefit from the UAQTE.

The small number of accredited schools, the deliberate lack of budget, the examination and retention policies and the rule on the completion of the undergraduate degree within the year after the prescribed period; are some of the many restrictions on the universal free education that is supposed to be provided by RA 10931, Landicho observed.

“These restrictions run smack against the very name of the law which profess to provide universal access. It also discriminates against the community colleges that the CHEd allowed to exist in the first place,” she said.

“Why are they making the poor students pay for their fault?” she also asked.

Landicho explained that had the government empowered the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs); and did not perpetuate/tolerate the abusive practices of private universities, “the CHEd should not now be fearing the influx of community colleges and diploma mill school students to the SUCs.”

Meanwhile, FREE Eduk Watch member and spokesperson of the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) Jade Lyndon Mata said a recent statement by CHEd Commissioner Prospero de Vera about the UAQTE is not correct.

Mata is referring to an incident last week when De Vera was asked by reporters about the status of the UAQTE’s IRR.

The CHEd official admitted that the IRR is still on the works as “[it] is a rather complicated law. We’ve never tried it [and] no developing country in the region has tried it….and so, a lot of the things that we’re intending to do, we’re starting essentially from scratch.”

But Mata insists that “free tertiary education was not invented yesterday.” He noted that there are so many successful models to emulate from.

“One of which is Sri Lanka, a developing country in South Asia, whose gross domestic product is only about one-third of the Philippines,” he said adding that “that country has been providing free tertiary education to its citizens since 1945.”

Nelson Flores, J.D., MSCK
A former reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila Standard Today, and a regular columnist of the Metro Manila based daily tabloid newspaper Hataw; Nelson Flores is also the former Senior Associate Editor of the Houston based Fil-Am Press and former anchor of dzXL and dzRJ's weekend talk show Usaping Bayan. Mr. Flores has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Law degrees from the University of Santo Tomas and Adamson University and a holder of a study certificate from the Diocesan House of Studies, Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI). He is a Freemason and member of Reagan Lodge 1037 in Houston Heights under the jurisdiction of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Texas and a member of the Missionary Society of Christ the King (MSCK).

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