Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto today thanked President Duterte, "the country's teacher-in-chief," for signing into law the free college tuition bill.
"By signing the law, he is in effect lecturing the nation that we should not just build, build, build for the sake of our future, but also teach, teach, teach our youth, " Recto said.
Recto, however, said that "hard work" awaits in "funding the many mandates" of the law signed by Duterte, sans the ceremony which usually attends the enactment of significant bills.
Recto urged "immediate work and consultations" on the drafting of the law's rules and regulations, without which the law will not be implemented.
"The challenge now is how to fund the measure, effective next year, because budget delayed is education denied," Recto said, in stressing the importance of the early release of the IRR.
The proposed combined budgets of state universities and college for next year is P61.4 billion, which do not factor in free tuition.
Recto, however, expressed confidence "that the 2018 proposed national budget has enough budget space to accommodate the more important mandates of the new law."
"We'll have to liposuction the fat, and transform it into funds for state colleges," Recto said.
"We should be open to a phased implementation that should begin with free tuition," he said, noting that the law waives not just tuition but all fees, and covers not only SUCs but other tertiary education institutions like local government-run colleges and tech-voc public schools.
It will be recalled that Recto filed the first and only bill on free college during the 16th Congress.
He is the principal author of Senate Bill 61, the first measure filed on the matter in the present 17th Congress.
During the budget deliberations on the 2016 national budget, Recto formally introduced the inclusion of P6 billion in the SUCs budget for free public college.
He repeated this again for the 2017 national budget, which led to the successful addition of P8 billion in the SUCs budget for free tuition.
Recto said "this law occupies a place among landmark social legislations," and gives credit to President Duterte for valuing opinions outside the Cabinet.
He said the President will be remembered for "siding with people" on this issue. "If a teacher affects eternity, so does a president who removes obstacles to learning."
Source: Senate of the Philippines