Salceda decries ‘stupid’ implementation of free college education law
Albay 2nd Dist. Rep. Joey Salceda on Wednesday scrutinized the “stupid” implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA), lamenting how this “deprives ordinary Filipinos of a major step to achieving their aspirations.”
In a report to House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the implementation of Republic Act No. 10931, Salceda, a principal author of the measure, demanded an explanation from the Commission on Higher Education (Ched), Unified Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Act (UniFAST), and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) regarding their “poor” implementation of the free high education law.
“As principal author, sponsor and advocate of universal access to quality tertiary education, this dismal turn of events deprives ordinary Filipinos of a major step to achieving their aspirations and does not bode well for the contribution of this law to nation-building and national development particularly if the flaws in implementation are not remedied decisively and expeditiously,” Salceda said in his report.
The UAQTEA was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on August 3, 2017. In 2018, the law was given a P41-billion budget while in 2019, a fund of P51 billion is being earmarked for its implementation.
“It’s implementation, stupid. No matter how good the law, it fails due to bad implementation,” Salceda also said.
The lawmaker further noted that as of November 9, or after 17 months since enactment and barely two months left in 2018, “only 9 out of all 199 public higher education institutions (HEIs)” – 112 states universities and colleges (SUCs) and 87 accredited local universities and colleges (LUCs) – have been paid for 1st semester Free Higher Education (FHE).
He added that not one HEI was paid for 2nd semester, “defeating the overarching intent of the law for free tuition and other school fees.”
Salceda also questioned why, despite its “poor performance,” the UniFAST desires to retain its control of the FHE budget for SUCs contrary to the intent of RA 10931 which clearly states that after the first year of implementation, the budget for FHE should go directly to SUCs.
No policy has also been issued on the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES), which Salceda said led to several negative outcomes like failure to award grants to eligible beneficiaries, and being prone to errors in beneficiary selection.
The lawmaker also lamented that the National Student Loan Program (NSLP) has not been implemented at all. He said the NSLP, along with the TES, was “supposed to level the playing field between private HEIs and public HEIs that benefit from FHE.”
The UniFAST has “not engaged in the conduct of meaningful and continuing coordination among all stakeholders, leading to loss of benefits for some Student Financial Assistance Programs (StuFAPs) beneficiaries,” Salceda further said.
“This neglect is a direct result of the wrong prioritization on the billing system and numerous insignificant conferences, summits and workshops,” he added.
While Ched committed to scrap the return service system under the UAQTEA’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) during the agency’s budget defense before the House plenary due to its “lack of basis in the law,” Salceda noted the published IRR still has this provision and has not been corrected.
“Now that Congress clarified that return service is not needed, these students should also be reimbursed for any payment made to the institutions. Unfortunately, this issue is not being discussed,” he said. /kga