“Free tuition should be enjoyed by all.”
By DANIEL BOONE
MANILA – Students held a protest trooped outside Quezon Hall in the University of the Philippines – Diliman (UPD) to assert their right to free education, June 16, in time for the meeting of the Board of Regents, the highest policy making body in UP System.
The students denounced the approved Free Tuition Policy (FTP) to be implemented next semester, calling it a sham because it will be based on guidelines that limit beneficiaries to those who can prove they are “poor and deserving” of the free tuition grant.
“Ang kapal ng mukha ng Ched [Commission on Higher Education] na mag-provide pa ng guidelines sa mga makakatanggap ng free tuition, samantalang dapat [naman talaga] itong tinatamasa ng lahat ng estudyante (Ched had the nerve to set guidelines on who will be prioritized for free tuition, when it should be enjoyed by all students),” said Isaac Punzalan, Representative from UPD University Student Council (USC).
In December 2016, government announced its free tuition policy after Congress allocated a total of P8.3 billion (US $166.5 million) for Ched’s budget which can cover tuition expenses of all students in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). But President Rodrigo Duterte practically defeated the spirit of the policy when he qualified that it was meant for “poor and academically-able students.”
Ched and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) issued a joint memorandum on April 20, specifying the guidelines on providing tuition grants, based on Duterte’s order. Student groups have launched a series of protests condemning the guidelines, which are similar to UP’s socialized tuition scheme.
Kabataan partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago told Bulatlat that allied youth groups are against the implementation of a socialized tuition scheme, as it mocks the right to education, which is everyone’s right.
Earlier this week, on June 15, student groups led by Agham Youth launched “Free Tuition Watch” — a Facebook page which aims to gather cases of violations of the right to education, such as being denied access to free tuition, selective implementation of the policy, and tuition increases.
Ezron Cabrera, secretary general of Agham Youth-UP Diliman, said government should not prioritize and select beneficiaries “based on economic and intellectual stature.”
“There is no logical basis in this, given that the amount allocated for free tuition is more than enough to cover all continuing students and even incoming freshmen. It just serves to pit one student against another,” Cabrera said.
Meanwhile, Ched allocated a total of P356 million (US $7.1 million) to the UP System, according to UPD Chancellor Michael Tan in an informal dialogue with the students before the protest. The BOR discussed how the funds will be utilized, said UP Student Regent Raoul Danniel Manuel, but is yet to give further details.