The realignment of 8.3 billion pesos in the 2017 budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to cover tuition of students in the State Universities and Colleges (SUC) as part of General Appropriations Act to be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte is a victory for the youth who continuously fight for free access to higher education. This is great news for those who belong to the poor and marginalized sector of our society.
The Constitution states that, “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all” (Art. XIV, Sec. 1).
House Bill 5905 known as the “Free Higher Education Act” authored by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is an act that would subsidize tuition fees of more than 1.4 million students enrolled in all SUCs.
Consequently, the act is praiseworthy but possibly hasty. While it is very true that it would improve economic condition of the neediest segment of our population, on the other hand, it is also the lifeblood of private educational sector. The effect of this to private universities would be upsetting.
The role of private institutions to quality education must not be taken lightly, maintaining equilibrium, giving the public greater choices.
Moreover, to some people, this free education act is not really free because it is just passing the burden to all Filipinos. The money to pay for the tuition fees of 1.4 million students will definitely come from our taxes.
While we recognize the right of everyone to free education, our constitution provides free education only to elementary and secondary levels. Section 2 of Article XIV “establish and maintain a system of free public education in the elementary and high-school levels”, clearly manifests unlike basic education, free higher education is not a right, but just a privilege.
Most Filipinos understand the value of higher education. Just like in United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and other developed countries in Europe, prioritizing education and implementing pro-people policies, this act should also go along with improving tax collection and preventing the misuse of the money of the Filipino people.