House finds funding source for free higher education
The House of Representatives will realign the budgets of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to fund free higher education.
“The budget will form part of the pool of funds to finance the free higher education law,” Rep. Karlo Nograles, chair of the appropriations committee, said in a text message.
The Department of Budget and Management originally proposed P350.95 million for the ERC, P1.13 billion for the NCIP, and P649.48 million for the CHR.
House members approved the motions to grant a P1,000 budget to the ERC on Sept. 5, and the NCIP and the CHR on Sept. 12.
In the Senate, the finance subcommittee approved on Thursday night the NCIP’s proposed P1.1-billion budget for next year.
The approval came two hours after senators grilled NCIP officials in charge of helping improve the lives of 14 million indigenous peoples (IP) and sought their commitment to step up processes that had been giving the impression that the commission was antidevelopment.
Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the finance committee, also asked the NCIP to “recast” its budget in a way that a big chunk of it should “go to the needs of the IP.”
“We want to see more assistance to indigent IP families for basic needs like education, health and even housing,” Legarda told NCIP Chair Leonor Oralde-Quintayo.
Legarda made the suggestion shortly after Quintayo appealed for the Senate to restore the commission’s budget.
Quintayo teared up and thanked the subcommittee for restoring the NCIP budget.
In the House, Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin criticized the attempt to “soften the criticism” of the House’s 119-32 vote to defund the CHR.
“You can’t cut the budget of a constitutional body then to soften criticism [and] bestow it to a supposed loftier cause like free tuition,” Villarin said. “Educating people on the value of human rights should start with our legislators.”
Instead, they proposed that the House get the funds from the P2.5-billion intelligence fund of the Office of the President, P900 million for the antidrug campaign called “Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded,” P500 million for the community-based intelligence network “Masa Masid,” and P56 billion for right-of-way acquisitions.
Besides the budgets of the defunded agencies, Nograles said in August that P16 billion in scholarship funds could be realigned to fund Republic Act No. 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, that Mr. Duterte signed earlier that month.
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