Militant group warns Duterte against veto of free tuition bill
A militant group on Thursday warned President Rodrigo Duterte not to veto the free tuition for state universities and colleges (SUCs) bill, saying that such act “would give him something in common with predecessor Benigno Aquino III.”
“Duterte’s veto of the bill providing free tuition for state universities and colleges will be as politically costly as Noynoy Aquino’s veto of the P2,000 pension hike for SSS members. Such an act by Duterte would give him something in common with Aquino. Quite ironic after Duterte’s criticism of Aquino yesterday,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes said in a statement.
The Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, which will provide full tuition subsidy to 112 SUCs, local universities and colleges, and state-run technical-vocational schools, was passed by Congress in May and awaits Duterte’s signature or veto.
It automatically becomes a law if not acted upon by the President.
However, the 2018 national budget, unlike that of last year’s, does not have the P8 billion allocated to the tuition subsidy.
“The free tuition law stands to benefit the youth, especially those who are poor. It is a worthwhile investment in the future of the country, greater than any road, bridge or port that this government wants to prioritize. Duterte should shun the advice of the pro-business, neoliberals in his cabinet,” said Reyes, referring to the 2018 national budget hearing of the House appropriations committee on Wednesday.
During the hearing, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the government could not afford the tuition subsidy.
“It was not in the 2018 budget of the President. In the absence of any law, we cannot appropriate money for free tuition,” Diokno told lawmakers during the hearing.
Reyes pointed out that even the Commission on Higher Education said free tuition was manageable, and would not cost government the P100 billion estimated by the Department of Budget and Management, urging the President to sign the bill.
“Free tuition for SUC’s is a landmark law whose time has come. Duterte risks enraging the youth and their parents if he junks this measure. If he keeps listening to his economic managers, he will end up implementing more anti-people programs that will isolate him from the people,” said Reyes.
“Digong should thus sign the free tuition law and ensure appropriations for it,” he added. CBB
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