Should President Duterte follow his advisers' recommendation to veto the free college tuition bill, "such a setback would be like losing the first round of a boxing match," Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said today.
"Too early to throw in the towel. For advocates, the attitude must be to get up and fight again. What we should do is to re-file the bill, and use the veto message as guide in writing a new version," Recto said.
"Practicality dictates that views of the executive should be taken into consideration. If we re-file a bill that is a carbon-copy of the vetoed one then it will meet the same fate," he added.
For this purpose, it would be helpful if the Cabinet members who pressed Duterte to thumb down the measure would identify the provisions they were objecting to, Recto said. "Better still, they can write their own version and then send it to Congress."
MalacaAang has no choice but to be a part in drafting a new measure, he said. "If they cop out, then how can they convince the promdi millennials that a tax in your 3-in-1 coffee is good, but free college is not?"
"Hindi lang build, build, build, pero mahalaga rin ang teach, teach, teach. We shouldn't be focusing just on the physical infrastructure but on the human capital as well," Recto said.
For Recto, the expansion of the bill's coverage to cover "other school fees" doomed it.
"The bill's original ambit was limited to tuition only. This was the Senate position. But the final version that was sent to the President's desk expanded it, to cover 'and other school fees,'" Recto said.
"In short, four words torpedoed the measure, four words which gave the economic managers the reason to call for its rejection," Recto said.
The plan, Recto said, "was to impose a free college regime by installment so it won't meet executive resistance and one that is based on the government's capacity to pay."
"As a matter of tactic, unti-unti. Tuition muna. Kasi 'yan ang basic. Then susunod na ang ilang miscellaneous fees. Just to break ground. Incremental change is not bad if you have a long haul strategy. Eh dahil isang bagsak, nakakita ng opening ang mga economic advisers to veto it," Recto explained.
Recto, however, doubted the economic managers' estimate of a P100 billion "price tag" of free public college.
"Medyo inflated na ito to sow fear into the President's mind," Recto said.
"The math doesn't add up. Paano aabot ng P100 billion, eh noong 2016, ang internal income nito mula sa tuition fees ay P8.1 billion at income collected from students ay P4.3 billion," he said.
Source: Senate of the Philippines