Teachers’ group takes issue with CHEd on PLM case
A teachers’ group on Thursday called out the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) for its “unreasonable” and “elitist” precondition in granting free tuition to students, citing the predicament faced by the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM).This was after CHEd earlier warned the PLM of possible removal from the list of schools benefiting from the free tuition law because its current president lacked a doctoral degree.
In a letter dated Aug. 15, CHEd told the PLM administration that it might be delisted from the beneficiaries of the Universal Access to Tertiary Quality Education because its current head, Emmanuel Leyco, does not have a doctorate, which is a requirement under CHEd Memorandum Circular No. 18, series of 2022.
18,000 students to be affected
Now in its 56th year of operation, PLM is considered “the first and only chartered, autonomous university funded by a city government.”
If its removal pushes through, around 18,000 students who are beneficiaries of the government’s free college education program might be affected.
“The Ph.D.-holder requirement for LUC (local university and colleges) presidents only serves to restrict, instead of facilitate, the delivery of free higher education. It defeats the purpose of the Universal Access to Tertiary Quality Education Act of 2017,” the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said.
During a House budget briefing on Tuesday, CHEd Chair Prospero de Vera III explained that under the law, LUCs and state universities and colleges (SUCs) must have both institutional recognition and certificate of program compliance (COPC) to qualify for free education.
“When the law was implemented, we allowed them to just comply with at least one of the conditions to be included [in the beneficiaries] but there is also a requirement that within two years, you must comply with both,” De Vera said.
He added that the problem in securing a COPC crops up when a university’s degree programs are not assured of quality or, under the provision of institutional recognition, their university president doesn’t have a doctorate.
4 years as PLM president
“Ninety-seven LUCs have complied with both (requirements) so they are in good standing. Nineteen have been delisted [and] out of the 19, I think six or seven have corrected the problems and are back in free higher [education],” De Vera said.
ACT said such a requirement was “ludicrous” and “unreasonable” because it was stricter than what the Constitution requires for a presidential candidate.
“Leading a public university, first and foremost, requires a firm grasp of the responsibility at hand—that is to train and develop our impoverished youth to be critical ‘iskolar ng bayan’ who will serve the interest of nationalist development,” the group said.
“A public university president should have the ability to unite the community toward the goals of honor, excellence and service by having the ability to address and resolve the concerns of students, faculty and staff,” ACT added, noting that Leyco had proved this in his four years of service as PLM president. In a statement released on Aug. 31, PLM officials assured the public it will still provide free college education and promptly release the faculty and staff salaries “despite a threat of delistment” from CHEd.
Not an LUC
The PLM management said the requirement for university presidents to hold a doctorate to be part of the free tuition law only covered LUCs, which are institutions established by local government units by ordinance.
“In contrast, the PLM was created by the national government through a law,” the PLM said, citing Republic Act No. 4196.
The management said it “takes exception in CHED’s attempt to classify PLM as an LUC,” adding that PLM was instead a “locally funded public higher education institution” and that it had the “same legal standing as the University of the Philippines (UP) system.”
But De Vera argued that based on Republic Act No. 8292, or the Higher Education Modernization Act of 1997, only UP and Mindanao State University are exempted from the coverage of standard governance across public universities.
“PLM is not included in RA 8292 and even under their law, it was not indicated that they are exempted from CHEd’s regulations,” he said.
Not yet delisted
De Vera also clarified to lawmakers that PLM was not yet delisted from the free tuition law as the commission was still deliberating on the matter.
“We sent them a letter saying that they must comply with certain requirements for inclusion in free higher [education] and they have written a reply,” De Vera said.
“We were hoping that they could attend the commission en banc we did [on Sept. 11] except when they came there the chair of the board of regents was not present,” he added.
The meeting has been rescheduled to the subsequent commission en banc, where the PLM’s reply to CHEd will be “discussed more extensively.”