ON THE HYPOCRISY OF PRES. ARROYO’S CALL TO LOWER TUITION RATES
Rep. Teddy Casiño (Bayan Muna Party-list)
14th Congress, House of Representatives (First Regular Session)
June 2, 2008
I rise to avail of the privilege hour to speak on the welfare of the millions of Filipino youth who are being deprived of their right to education.
Pasukan nanaman po, Mr. Speaker, at kinakabahan nanaman kaming mga magulang dahil tiyak na magtataas nanaman ng matrikula ang mga bata.
School is about to start and once again, we are saddened by reports that many higher education institutions or HEIs are about to increase their tuition and other school fees. This, even with the reality that the whole nation is suffering from the soaring prices of rice, oil and power, and other basic needs.
As if responding to every parent’s annual fear of another round of school fee hikes, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself has issued an order for all state colleges and universities to freeze their tuition rates for the coming school year. She likewise made an appeal to all private education institutions to do the same.
Normally, such pronouncements, by the President no less, would have been welcomed by this representation. After all, I am the principal author of a bill calling for a three-year moratorium on tuition fee increases. Also, since my entry into Congress, I have consistently fought against tuition fee increases especially in our state colleges and universities.
But Mr. Speaker, something about this recent populist pronouncement by the President leaves a bad taste in the mouth. And let me tell you why.
Unang-una, kwestyunable ang timing ng announcement ng Presidente. Ginawa po ito matapos ang pagpoproseso ng mga rate increases para sa darating na pasukan. Samakatuwid, tapos na po ang labanan, Mr. Speaker, nang nagsalita si Presidente. The fact is that the period for consultation and approval of tuition fee increases has long been finished, making the President’s appeal an empty piece of populist rhetoric.
But the hypocrisy of the presidential pronouncement goes deeper than that.
The fact is, it was the President herself who was instrumental in allowing schools to hike their tuition and other fees without limit and without fear of any sanction.
Allow me to quote an Inquirer report dated January 9, 2008:
“ MANILA , Philippines – Good news for owners and operators of private tertiary schools nationwide but bad news for students and parents.
“President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recently gave private educators the go-signal to lift the ceiling on tuition and other school fees earlier imposed by the government, “provided there would be consultations with students, as well as the parents,” top officials of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) quoted her as saying.
“Arroyo arrived at the decision after a series of meetings with CHED, Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU) and the Coordinating Council for Private Educational Institutions (COCOPEA), among other groups.”
In other words, the President is saying one thing but doing the other: she is appealing for school owners not to raise fees while, on the other hand, assuring them that they can raise their fees, sky’s the limit. Iba ang salita, iba ang gawa, Mr. Speaker. It was due to the President’s intervention that the cap on school fee increases that the CHED tried to impose starting last year was lifted.
For the record, Mr. Speaker, let me inform you that during several hearings of the Committee on Higher and Technical Education in the 13th Congress, we reiterated that CHED had the power and the mandate to regulate tuition and other school fees. In particular, I remember the vice chairperson of the committee, then Rep. Abayon, berating CHED officials for exempting schools from the mandatory consultation process as long as their fee increase was below the inflation rate. Members of the committee were of the strong opinion that this was illegal and patently unconstitutional.
Partly in response to Congress’ representations, CHED eventually amended its guidelines and procedures on increasing tuition and other school fees, also known as CHED Memorandum Order 14 of 2005. Through subsequent orders (CMO No. 15 s. 2005, CMO Nos. 05 and 42 s. 2006, and CMO No. 7 s. 2007), CHED imposed a cap on tuition and other school fee increases to within the prevailing inflation rate. It also reiterated the requirements for student consultations and the proper disbursement of the incremental proceeds of such fee increases among school facilities, teachers’ salaries and profits.
Samakatuwid, Mr. Speaker, nakinig sa atin ang CHED. It was one of those rare moments where the Executive branch actually listened to us. The cap on tuition increases and other amendments to CMO No. 14 were supposed to be implemented for school year 2007-2008.
However, on Feb. 19, 2007, in a speech before the biggest organization of private school owners, the Coordinating Council for Private Educational Institutions (COCOPEA), then CHED Chair Carlito Puno announced the immediate and sudden suspension of CMO No. 14 and its amendments.
A day later, on Feb. 20, Puno issued an unnumbered memorandum to this effect and reinstated the older guidelines, CMO No. 13 series of 1998. The announcement and the ensuing unnumbered memo were maliciously issued a few days before the conclusion of campus consultations on school fee hikes.
We were all caught flat footed by this move, Mr. Speaker, especially since it was made too late in the day when summer vacation was about to start and the public was starting to be riveted by the election campaign. Nasalisihan po ang mga estudyante at mga miyembro ng Kongreso.
The reversion from CMO No. 14 to CMO No. 13, Mr. Speaker, essentially removed the cap on tuition and excluded miscellaneous and other school fees from the consultation process. In other words, it removed whatever clout there was that CHED and the students gained through CMO No. 14.
We later discovered that CHED’s actions were made at the behest of President Arroyo after she met with COCOPEA.
Let me quote a COCOPEA memo circular on the matter:
“Please be advised that after a meeting COCOPEA had with President Macapagal-Arroyo last week, the President took the initiative to order the creation of a review team…The review will also cover CHED Memorandum Orders No. 7, Series of 2007; No. 42, Series of 2006; and No. 14, Series of 2005. Hence, the suspension of these CMOs.”
The President’s orders and the subsequent cancellation of CMO No. 14 resulted in tuition increases of 6-20% in tuition and as much as 90% increases in other fees, including miscellaneous fees and the following nebulous charges: energy fee, sports development fee, testing materials fee, computer fee, library fee, test paper fee, audiovisual fee, aircon fee, insurance fee, late registration fee, ad infinitum, ad naseum.
Samakatuwid, Mr. Speaker, dahil sa kagagawan ni Pangulong Arroyo at ng CHED, nagatasan ng husto noong isang taon ang ating mga estudyante at kanilang mga magulang.
And this year will be no different because the same set of policies will prevail, with the President again meeting the school owners before making a belated and totally toothless appeal for them not to raise fees. Just two weeks ago, the CHED disclosed that 341 higher education institutions are seeking to increase their tuition this school year by 8-10%. This represents 19% of all HEIs nationwide.
Matapos tanggalan ng ngipin ang CHED para pigilan ang mga di makatarungang pagtaas ng matrikula, heto si Pangulong Arroyo, umaapila sa mga school owners na huwag magtaas ng matrikula. Ano ang tawag d’yan, Mr. Speaker? Hindi ba isang panggogoyo, isang panloloko? Isang malaking kahipokritahan?
Subalit hindi d’yan nagtatapos ang pagiging hipokrita ng Pangulo sa usaping ito.
Nanawagan siya sa mga SUC na huwag na muna magtaas ng tuition. Pero sa totoo lang, ano ba ang ginagawa ng gobyerno sa ating mga SUCs? Inaabandona, Mr. Speaker. Pinapabayaang magbulok at maglaho.
Sa ilalim ng administrasyong Arroyo, lumiit ang share ng badyet ng edukasyon mula 17.4% noong 2001 hanggang 13.9% na lamang noong 2006. Bilang bahagi ng Gross Domestic Product, ito’y lumiit din mula 3.3% noong 2001 hanggang 2.19% ngayong taon.
Ramdam na ramdam ito sa mga SUCs. The budget allocation for SUCs represents 1.84 percent of the national budget for 2008, far behind the 2.74 percent allocation in 2007. Tuwing budget hearing, Mr. Speaker, ang mga presidente ng SUCs eh parang mga pulubi na nagmamakaawa sa atin para sa dagdag dahil sa sobrang liit ng kanilang tinatanggap. It is a fact that the nominal increase in the budget for SUCs this year is not enough even for shouldering the cost of additional expenditures due to inflation.
While the government boasts an additional budget for state collages and universities, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines , the largest public university in the country is suffering from a budget cut of more than six million pesos. In a glaring manifestation of the government’s abandonment of education, the University of the Philippines itself, the premiere state university, increased its tuition by 300% last year. Furthermore, other exorbitant fees continue to increase uncontrollably.
This whole scenario shows itself as a manifestation of the Arroyo government’s blatant disregard to the education sector and negligence to millions of Filipino youth.
This year’s budget allocation for the education sector represents just 2.19 percent of the Gross National Product, far behind the 6 percent of GNP as pegged by the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century.
Mr. Speaker, this is nothing less than gross negligence on the part of the government.
As a result of this prolonged negligence, our educational system, particularly public tertiary institutions, can accommodate only a small percentage of students who wish to get a college education leaving the liberalized and deregulated private sector, including diploma mills, wallowing in profits.
Mr. Speaker, my distinguished colleagues, much as I would like to, there is not enough time to discuss Bayan Muna’s comprehensive critique on the educational system. What I would like to immediately address is the prospect of higher tuition and other fees for the coming school year.
Some proposals come to mind, Mr. Speaker. First, enough of the President’s hypocrisy and populist posturing. If she is really serious about lowering tuition and other school fees, she should allow CHED to impose a moratorium on fee increases in private and public tertiary schools. If not a moratorium, then at least a cap on increases should be imposed. At the same time, CHED should immediately issue guidelines for the refund of additional fees charged this year.
Second, the President should put her money where her mouth is. It is not enough to have a moratorium on fee increases in our SUCs. As important will be a substantial increase in their budgets. I expect that in the next budget hearings, the Executive will present a budget that increases the SUCs share by 30-50% of their existing budgets.
Third, Congress should immediately act on pending measures that seek to regulate tertiary education and ensure its affordability in order to guarantee the youth’s right to an accessible, if not free and quality education. The President should also certify these as urgent.
Thank you Mr. Speaker, my distinguished colleagues.
Vincent Michael L. Borneo
Political Affairs Officer
(Media and Public Relations)
Office of BAYAN MUNA Rep. Teddy A. Casiño
Rm. 508, North Wing Bldg.,
House of Representatives, Quezon City
Telefax no: 931-5911