President Rodrigo Duterte should sign the free education bill into law because it is an investment that will stir progress, lawmakers said on Thursday.
Makabayan bloc and party-list lawmakers Sarah Elago of Kabataan, Antonio Tinio and France Castro of Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Arlene Brosas of Gabriela, Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna and Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis made the call two days before the proposed bill lapses into law if the President does not veto or reject it.
The Makabayan bloc said it was illogical for the government, particularly Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, to say that the state cannot afford to fund the free education bill when it would allocate P1 trillion for its infrastructure program “Build, Build, Build.”
The Duterte administration aims to raise P8 trillion for the six-year long program.
The lawmakers argued that the free education bill will only cost P34 billion for the first year of implementation, not P100 billion as claimed by Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.
“If the government can fund the ‘Build, Build, Build’ project worth P8 trillion until 2022, [it]can very well fund the education of our youth. This is a better investment as against infrastructure projects, which tend to benefit big-time corporations and businessmen,” Zarate said.
“This [bill if signed into law]will benefit 1.8 million students in the first year alone. It is not true that only 12 percent of the poor make it through college. Seventy percent of students in SUCs (State Universities and Colleges) are poor, near poor or part of the struggling middle class. Just one percent of the proposed budget for 2018 [which is P3.7 trillion]is [already]enough to fund this law until 2022,” Elago said.
She was referring to a statement made by Director General Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority.
“The President should not think twice in signing this [bill]into law. This is for the benefit of millions of youth. The balance is clear, we need to invest in our youth because this will result in economic progress,” Casilao said.
LLANESCA T. PANTI