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SPOILED ‘PORK’ PROGRAM

Court orders school again to release students’ papers

ILOILO CITY—The Iloilo Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Barotac Viejo town had ordered a state college anew to release school records of graduates who benefited from a scholarship program that went unfunded when the Supreme Court declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, unconstitutional.

The court also ordered Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College (NIPSC) to accept the enrollment of students with unpaid fees under the same pork scholarship program dubbed “Iskolar sang Quinto” or ISQ.

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In a 20-day temporary restraining order issued on April 21, Judge Rogelio Amador, of the RTC Branch 66, barred officials of NIPSC from preventing the enrollment of incoming third and fourth year students who had been listed as ISQ beneficiaries.

The three-page order also barred school officials Ma. Theresa Palmares (president) and Hilda Magtiza (vice president) from withholding transcript and other school records of ISQ scholars who had graduated.

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The order applies not only to eight students who filed class suits against the school officials but also to “other similarly situated students.”

Mere enforcers

In a summary hearing on April 19, the school officials’ legal counsels argued that the officials were merely enforcing school policy that required the settlement of unpaid accounts before school records are released to graduating students or students are allowed to enroll.

The petitioners were among 1,000 graduates and students who had been listed as beneficiaries of ISQ, a program initiated by Niel Tupas Jr. when he was still congressman and who charged it to his pork barrel funds.

Funding for ISQ, however, ceased after the high court declared the graft-tainted pork barrel system unconstitutional.

Tupas had assured NIPSC he would look for funds to continue ISQ, allowing its beneficiaries to continue to enroll.

School officials said they had received an Audit Observation Memo dated Feb. 23, 2017, issued by the Commission on Audit in Western Visayas showing that receivables from ISQ had reached P74.7 million.

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Tupas insisted that funds had been sent to NIPSC for ISQ.

Don’t punish students

But Judge Amador, in his order, said students should not be made to suffer “shortcomings not of their own making.”

Accountability for the unpaid fees, the judge said, should be settled in another forum.

School policy requiring payment of fees before release of transcript of records or enrollment should not apply to government scholars, said the judge.

The judge pointed out that the debt is owed by the government to a government school.

Graduates of NIPSC, who benefited from ISQ, protested the refusal of the school to release their records since they could not apply for jobs without transcripts.

The ISQ program offered scholars financial assistance of up to P3,000 per student per semester which they could use to partially pay for tuition of up to P5,000 per semester per student.

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TAGS: Iloilo Regional Trial Court (RTC), Pork barrel, Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), scholarship program, school records, state college
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