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Groups challenge Duterte’s sincerity in vow to make free tertiary education accessible to Lumad youth

By Samahan Ng Progresibong Kabataan
February 3, 2018

QUEZON CITY – Youth activists reacted to statements of President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday to lumad parents of not needing to worry about sending their children to college now that free education will be provided under his administration’s Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Tertiary Quality Education Act.

In an emailed statement, the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (Spark) together with KAISA UP claimed that the President “was merely weaving lies and giving false hopes to parents in order to douse the growing social discontent and frustration towards his administration which promised and deliberately failed to deliver lasting social change”.

Under RA 10931, which is expected to be implemented by the upcoming academic year, tuition and other school fees in state and local universities and colleges (SUCs and LUCs) are to be subsidized by State for qualified students. 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”.

Spark’s spokesperson, Jade Lyndon Mata said that under the law, “free education remains to be not free, inaccessible, and mentions nothing on the quality of education, totally unreflective of the law’s title”.

“The mere existence of the Student Loan Program (SLP) in the law attests that tertiary education remains to be not free, even profiting from students with long-term loans to be collected by the government through SSS and GSIS contributions,” Mata added.

“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. “Duterte even that Lumad youth can obtain free education in schools like Ateneo, La Salle and San Beda”.

Student leader and chairperson of KAISA UP Shara Landicho also 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 the Reproductive Health law. This inadequacy is a major and glaring flaw if it genuinely seeks to provide universal access to those who wish to pursue tertiary education,” she asserted.

The groups concluded that without major amendments to the Free Education Law, Duterte’s statement to the lumad parents “remains to be empty words meant to simulate his administration is reform-oriented and sincere.

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

They likewise called on all students to unite and challenge the veracity of Duterte’s sincerity in providing “free tertiary education for all”.