PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to sign into law the free tuition act for state universities and colleges (SUCs) was welcomed at the House of Representatives although one of its authors warned the Chief Executive that this still did not “exculpate him from his wrongful acts of promoting a culture of violence, mass murder, and misogyny”.
At the same time, Party-list Reps. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna and Sarah Elago of Kabataan, authors of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, said that since a budget was not provided under the proposed P3.7 trillion budget for 2018, it was incumbent upon members of the House to appropriate funds for its implementation.
“We laud President Duterte for heeding the call of the people. The victory of the people, though, is yet to be completed and we are now calling on leaders and members of Congress to immediately set a budget for the measure so that the youth and students of our country would now benefit from it,” Zarate said.
“The passage of the Free Tuition Law is an initial victory not only for the youth of today but also for future generations. We have to keep the vigilance, and Congress has to address the fact that our economic managers excluded any type of funding for this significant legislation in the 2018 proposed national budget,” said Elago.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno admitted during a budget hearing that the government could not fund the Free College Education law because it would cost the government as much as P100 billion a year.
Zarate and Elago, however, argued that the Free College Education law would only need at least P34 billion to be implemented on its first year. The P100 billion, the authors of the measure cited, would be enough until 2022.
Rep. Tom Villarin of Akbayan party-list, for his part, said that this measure should inspire the Chief Executive to show empathy for the poor.
“We welcome this victory for the youth and students who have relentlessly fought for the right to free education over the years. President Duterte’s move, however, does not exculpate him from his wrongful acts of promoting a culture of violence, mass murder, and misogyny,” said Villarin, also an author of the bill.
“As one of the principal authors in the House of said bill, I hope that the future leaders of this country may also inspire courage and empathy for the poor especially in these extraordinary times,” Villarin added.