Senator Sonny Angara, vice-chair of the Senate education committee, today expressed "deep sadness" over the statements made by the administration's economic managers saying that the government cannot afford to fund the approved free college tuition bill should it become a law.
The bill subsidizing the education of students in SUCs, local tertiary schools and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda)-accredited institutions has already been approved and ratified by the Senate and House of Representatives and is just awaiting President Duterte's signature. It will lapse into law on Aug. 5 unless vetoed by the President.
"If the president vetoes the measure which I still hope he won't, we will surely re-file a version purged of what the executive branch saw as the objectionable provisions," the senator said.
He conceded that a veto over-ride, to be mustered by two-thirds of members in each house of Congress, is nearly impossible if not extremely difficult.
"It is like praying for snow in Manila. So what we can do is to immediately re-file the bill and request the Senate education committee chair to prioritize it," Angara stressed.
He said the idea of free college tuition is "too beautiful and too good to be buried soon."
"It is not yet time for its funeral. I think, with the cooperation and collaboration of our friends in the executive, we can still salvage the situation and work on how to fine tune the measure when we re-file it," he said, as he appealed to his colleagues not to include other riders in the bill which may lead to future veto.
The lawmaker pointed out that in the meantime, what the government could do is to ensure the full implementation of the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Act also known as the UniFAST Law.
"Kung hindi pa natin kayang suportahan ang lahat, paigtingin muna natin yung mga scholarship at educational assistance programs natin para mas makakatulong sa mahihirap na estudyante. In that way, through better targeting of disadvantaged youth, we would still be leveling the playing field for all," stressed Angara.
Republic Act 10687 or the UniFAST Act of 2015, authored by the senator, mandates the government to put up a system and create a body that would oversee and harmonize all student financial assistance programs for a more targeted, speedy and sustained granting of scholarship programs.
The chairman of the Senate ways and means committee also urged the government to strengthen the "voucher system" under the Expanded Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education or the EGASTPE Law which he authored.
"A nation needs to invest in many things crucial ---- infrastructure, transport, manufacturing --- all are important, but we will all agree that investing in developing humans, a more productive and contributing citizenry, is never a waste," Angara said, adding:
"Wala nang mas mahalaga pa sa mamamayan bilang kapital sa pag unlad ng bansa."
Source: Senate of the Philippines