By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Following a series of protests, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chairman Emmanuel Angeles said that no tuition hike will be approved or implemented in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).
The PUP administration has proposed a 1,700-percent increase in tuition or from P12 to P200 per unit hike.
Angeles, who is also the Chairman of the PUP Board of Regents (BOR), vowed that he will vote against the proposed tuition increase on March 29, the scheduled BOR meeting to discuss the proposal.
“This is an important victory of the Iskolar ng Bayan. We attribute this victory to the resounding unity and protest of students against the 1,700% tuition hike proposal in PUP and other fee increases,” said Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino.
On March 19, thousands of students from PUP walked out from their classes to denounce the proposal to increase their tuition. Students threw armchairs, tables and papers from several floors of the school building to the ground. Some of these were burned to the ground after the students’ demand to have a dialogue with the PUP BOR was denied.
On Wednesday, students from PUP and University of the Philippines stormed the CHED office to demand an answer from Angeles. Students were forced to destroy the entrance gate and splattered paint in the vicinity of CHED before Angeles finally gave in to the demands of the students.
At the Bulatlat’s webcast with Kabataan partylist on Wednesday, Palatino defended PUP students from negative comments on their protest action.
“I won’t describe it as violent; nobody was hurt. It was a mere bold display of anger, disappointment, frustration,” he said, adding that the protest action was only a product of the Arroyo administration’s gradual neglect of state universities and colleges (SUCs).
Palatino told Bulatlat that the proposed tuition fee hike would mean forced expulsion of thousands of students coming from poor families, especially from the working class.
Even with the present P12 per unit tuition, Palatino said students and their families are already having a hard time supporting their studies. “They also have other needs to pay,” he said.
“I understand where they are coming from. They told me those armchairs and tables were already dilapidated and were no longer of use,” he said.
Quoting one of the students who joined the protest, Palatino said: “Those that we burned are only things but the tuition increase, if implemented, would destroy our lives and our future.”
Palatino said he also understands that administrators of SUCs are also torn between their mandate to provide quality and accessible education but are forced to raise funds to maintain their operations as the national government continues to lessen the budget due to them.
The youth representative added that the PUP administration and students should in fact join hands in criticizing the national government for the dwindling budget allotted to PUP and other SUCs. The national government, he said, adheres to the imposition of World Bank and International Monetary Fund that higher education should not be subsidized.
“They are imitating United States where only elementary and secondary education is subsidized by the state,” Palatino said. He insisted that tertiary education is a right, not privilege, adding that in some industrialized countries, governments invest heavily on higher education.
He denounced what he called a systematic attack on higher education. State abandonment on higher education is Arroyo’s legacy, he said.
While the group welcomes CHED’s categorical announcement on their promise not to increase tuition for PUP, Palatino said they will remain vigilant. (Bulatlat.com)