Senators confident President won’t veto free tuition

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SENATE finance committee head Loren Legarda on Sunday said she was confident President Rodrigo Duterte would agree to the P8.3-billion increase in the budget of Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to provide free college education in all state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the country.

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“This is a good investment for the county’s youth and it would also help the country in the future,” Legarda said in a radio interview aired over DZBB.

The P8.3-billion “Higher Education Support Fund” was added to the budget of the CHED and would be distributed among 114 SUCs based on the amount of tuition each school is projected to collect next year as reported in the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing document.

For 2017, the forecast SUC income from tuition was P7.78 billion out of total expected internally generated income of P17.62 billion.

It was Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto who introduced the amendment to have P8.3 billion realigned to CHED. The amount was originally included in the budget of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), but the House of Representatives took it out and transferred it to the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to fund infrastructure projects in the ARMM.

It was reported that eight congressmen in the ARMM pushed for the transfer of funds from the ARMM to the DPWH and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez supported the move.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson questioned the realignment and insisted that it be returned to ARMM or transferred to other projects.

Lacson said the move was not allowed under Republic Act 6734 that created the ARMM, as the autonomous region has its own public works department.

Concerns are being raised regarding a possible veto of the P8.3-billion realignment because lawmakers behind the move to transfer the amount to the DPWH are allies of the President.

The President is authorized to do line-item vetoes after thorough scrutiny.

Recto also downplayed fears the amendment to the 2017 general appropriations bill would be vetoed by Malacañang.

“All presidential candidates in the last election issued the promise that tuition in state colleges will be free, and President Duterte was among them,” he said.

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