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Duterte signs bill on free tuition in SUCs


By Argyll Cyrus Geducos


President Duterte signed the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act which grants free tuition to students of all state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the country on Thursday, Malacañang announced Friday morning.


President Rodrigo Roa Duterte


Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said during the Mindanao Hour press briefing Friday morning that Duterte has signed the bill Thursday night and explained why it took the President a long time to sign the bill despite free education being a huge part of his platform.

“The enrolled bill came to the Office of the President nearly 30 days ago and during that period, there had been a lot of discussions and study about the bill because of its  heavy budgetary implication” he explained.

Pillar of social development

Guevarra said that free tertiary education in SUCs is a very strong pillar or cornerstone of Duterte’s social development policy and that the President was still trying to figure out the best possible solution regarding the bill.

“So we weighed everything and came to the conclusion that the long-term benefits that will be derived from a well-developed tertiary education on the part of the citizenry will definitely outweigh any short-term budgetary challenges,” he said.

The Palace official also said that, whether or not economic managers are for the passing of the bill, the more important thing now is to find the budgetary allocation for the program.

Focus on funding

“Everyone, including the economic managers, will have to focus their attention on this particular aspect funding for this program because this will have to be implemented soon,” Guevarra said, adding that the SUC law will be implemented next school year.

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier suggested to Duterte to veto the bill as the government cannot afford to shoulder its cost estimated to be around P100 billion.

Duterte earlier said that he will decide on the fate of the bill before the deadline.

It was submitted to his office on July 5, 2017 and would have lapsed into a law Friday, based on the 1987 Constitution.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag earlier said that one of the budgetary considerations is the rehabilitation of  Marawi City, Lanao del Sur which has been the battleground between the government troops and terrorists since May 23, 2017.

Fund sources

Since Duterte has already submitted the proposed 2018 national budget to the Congress, Guevarra said that certain adjustments can still be made so allocation for the law can be made.

“That is really the principal responsibility of the Congress when they deliberate on the budget. Right now, I have nothing very specific to say about which projects or which programs or which agency proposed budget might be affected,” he said.

“If the Congress is really serious in finding the appropriate funding for this free tuition program, they will have to find the necessary sources for this particular program,” he added.

Guevarra also addressed the estimate of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that P100 billion would be needed to implement the SUC law.

Money matters

“The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) thinks otherwise. The P100-billion estimate of the DBM seems to be on the very high side because that is on the basis on the assumption that all aspects of the free tuition bill will be implemented all at the same time,” he said.

The CHED estimated that P34.1 billion would be needed for the implementation of the law.

According to Guevarra, the government would only have to spend on the mandatory provisions of the bill which includes tuition and miscellaneous fees which would need around P16 billion.

The related educational expenses like books and boarding would be shouldered for “deserving 20 percent” by the CHED’s Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) program.

“As far as I know those are the only mandatory provisions of the bill for now. The free tuition and other fees. Other fees would refer to something like library fees, ID fees, laboratory fees, and stuff like that,” Guevarra explained.

“Now as to the subsidy for related educational expenses, that is something to be processed by the UniFAST board which is supposed to have a system of priority,” he said, adding that the fund and system under the UniFAST are yet to be established.

“In other words, ‘yung mga talagang nangangailangan (those who are in need), the bottom 20 percent, will be prioritized in terms of subsidy for educational-related expenses,” he added.

The UniFAST rationalizes the allocation, utilization and client-targeting of government resources and improves access to quality higher and technical education for those who need it.



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  • OFW_000000001

    Ang ganda ng batas na to. Ang daming makikinabang na Filipino students. Sobrang laking bagay para sa mga mahihirap lalo na yung mga matatalino ngayon malaki na chance nyo makatapos. Para nyo na binigyan ng 1M each mga students natin…..wuhoooooo

    • cheronicles

      Hinihintay ko nga may mag negative comment pero wala eh. Siguro nahihirapan magisip kung pano ‘to itwi-twist. Pano kaya ‘to iheadline ng Inquirer or Rappler?

  • 10G_Internet

    “Free” is a relative term since tax payers (usually poor and middle-income salary workers) absorb that cost..

    Even Japan, UK, USA with 5 Trillion US Dollar economy cannot offer FREE TUITION for colleges and state universities.

    What happened in Japan, some EU countries, etc is that Electricity/Utilities charges, Aircon Charges, Teaching materials fees, Field Trip fees and the likes were charged to students (at even HIGHER COSTS) to offset the lost budget vacuum made when no more tuition fee had been collected.

    To maintain the total-free tuition fee, some of these countries RAISED ALL INCOME TAXES and add about 5 pesos per liter of gasoline so that the revenue will go to the FREE-COLLEGE TUITION FEES program nationwide.

    Some Business-TAX, City-TAX or Residence TAX were also raised to accommodate
    free-tuition even just for elementary and high-school.

    FOR EXAMPLE, The University of Tokyo was allowed by the government to raise the tuition fee (including all Fees 60% of the cost of private schools. Before Tokyo
    University charged about 40% of Private U and colleges fees. They have to get funds for their semiconductor and space science labs and equipment, RADAR, ROBOTICS, Artificial Intelligence AI, among others.

    1. Increase some taxes in HOUSE RENTAL or Business permit to rental houses and boarding houses, CONDO units etc.

    2. TAX OFW remittances of up too 12%

    3. Increase Diesel tax, maybe aditional 6 to 10 pesos per liter.

    4. BORROW and SELL our soul to CHINA para pautangin

    etc etc

  • 10G_Internet

    May napagtanungan akong mga taga-ibang bansa.

    Sabi nila, EDUCATION RIGHTS covers up to 18 years old only. Free Kinder, elementary,
    junior high and senior high school… eto lang ang responsibilidad ng gobyerno nila unilaterally for ALL kids up to 18 years old and those parents who will not send their kids to school will be criminally-liable and maybe JAILED.

    After 18 years old, it is no longer the LEGAL responsibility of the parents to send their kids to COLLEGE or UNIVERSITY. They will not be put to jail if they will not support at all the college and university education of their kids.

    Ang sabi ng gobyerno nila, HWAG KAYONG BATUGAN.
    Hwag kayong TAMAD.

    Magtrabaho at mag-ipon kayo for 18 years para papagaralin ang inyong anak kung
    gustong mag-college. hwag puro FB, laklak, sugal or buhay-hari at travel ng travel.

    State U and Colleges can offer totally Free to only poor students who have qualified entrance exam or national College Entrance Exams. or belong to the top-20 of the SENIOR-HIGH School graduating class of more than 100 students.

    Sa halip, Napunta ang most of budget sa FREE CLINIC CONSULTATION, MEDICATION and HOSPITALIZATION of all children up to 15 years old kahit anong sakit pa meron. LIBRE din ang kahin anong gamot ng bata mula ng isilang hanggang 15 years old kung
    magkakasakit kahit hindi dadalhin sa hospital. Lahat ng Elementary kids ay may 350-mL na fresh milk every day. All new-born up to 15 yeas old will also have FREE HEPATITIS A and B Vaccine.

    • OFW_000000001

      Having these law by another country doesnt mean, they are better laws. Most of those countries with these practices are well-off countries. We are still a 3rd world country with higher educations still behind those 1st world country. We have a different situation and I think we can judge the result years from now when we see more poor students graduates. This is an investment for the future of our country. This is very positive and timely.

  • Paul Parenas

    Excellent move Mr. President! Thank you for finally signing the bill. Many poor deserving Filipino kids can become professionals (teachers, police, doctors) through this bill.

    Now is your chance to issue an executive order or if it cannot be done by executive order, convince Congress to pass a bill going back to 10 years of education – 6 years of elementary and 4 years of high school. The extra two years is just an additional burden to the Filipino family.

    When Filipinos with professional degree move overseas like the U S of A, they are not recognized as professionals (engineer, nurse or doctor) by the host country. The host country looks at your diploma, give you the requirement to take their professional exam. If you meet all the requirements, then pass their test. You become licensed to practice your profession. Ergo: One doesn’t need an extra 2 years of schooling. It is a waste of money.

    Just because kids in the U S of A, have to complete 12 years of education, doesn’t mean the Philippines have to follow the U S of A. Show your independence Mr President! 10 years of educational requirement to qualify one to attend college is good enough.

    • Juan Barili

      That makes no sense at all to me. Leave the students unable to escape and make good money as OFW’s so they must take a crooked or low level job here 2 years early?

      • Paul Parenas

        It makes no sense if one is awash with money. But if one is poor, two years of added high school education is a waste of time and hard earned money.

        OFWs always start with low level paying jobs. That’s a fact! The beauty with working in a low level job is one can always work your way up to a better position. Remember: it is better to be working in a low level job than no job at all………

        • Juan Barili

          I am one of the poor as are most of my children, nephews and nieces. The ones who have college degrees and those who became OFW’s start at entry level low paying jobs that do not recognize their degrees overseas because our education system does not qualify them for the good jobs like OFW’s from most other nations around the world.The extra 2 years of education is supposed to cost the students and their family nothing exactly the same as the inferior 10 yr education. The reason it costs the parents and family is that our government refuses to give our children the free education they deserve.It is required by law, and needed to get a real job in this world.
          The OFW’s without this degree are greatly affected and will never be able to make a credible wage overseas and help their family. Especially after the corrupt lenders, government and recruiters have stolen it from them with dozens of added corrupt fees.

  • Ros Feliciano

    Indeed this is the best in DU30’s presidency!!! This only shows that he is definitely pro-poor president our country has ever had. Now for sure the sharks and crocodiles are angry because they cannot make extra money in spite some of them are well paid. However, I have a strong feeling that it might happen that there will be large number of graduates who will leave the country in search of job abroad and eventually will renounce their Fil citizenship. If indeed this will happen then they have no gratitude at all and no love of country.

  • Felipe Soriano

    The criteria for entrance to state universities is quite difficult. The free tuition will make it harder due to stiff competition. Only the most persevering will get the chance. This is a great incentive for more students to study harder and will directly impact the progress of the country.

  • Juan Barili

    Put the poor public elementary and high school students full government assistance. When this is 100% then and only then can you consider the college and university students.