Students from various universities and colleges in Baguio City and La Trinidad, Benguet came together in a solidarity program in Peoples’ Park on Wednesday in support for free education in public tertiary schools.
The activity, themed “Salubungan 2017: Forging Unities for Free and Nationalist Education”, coincides with the nationally coordinated protest actions that aim to pressure the government to fully subsidize the education sector.
Participants of the unity action includes students from the University of the Philippines Baguio, Saint Louis University, University of Cordilleras, University of Baguio, and Benguet State University, as disclosed by the organizers.
Kabataan Partylist and Anakbayan, the spearheads of the protest, mentioned the activity as their preliminary action as the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has yet to release clear guidelines on the implementation of free tuition policy.
On December last year, an 8.3 billion peso additional budget was rechanneled to CHED to forego tuition in all state universities and colleges.
The groups decried CHED’s recent pronouncements, saying free tuition will not apply to all students.
“Earlier, Duterte boasted of free tuition for all public tertiary students. Now it seems that free tuition applies to a selected few based on his latest pronouncements,” said Luke Bagangan, secretary general of Anakbayan Cordillera.
Duterte earlier ordered CHED to prioritized “financially in-need” students over other students.
“Classifying students based on their economic status as a basis for free education is undemocratic. It even defeats the point that accessible education must be a universal right of every Filipino,” said Bagangan.
The youth leader further warned that such classification will burden the students to prove that they are poor as if education is given only as a privilege.
Bagangan stated their call to be more comprehensive as it aims to abolish public school tuition while prohibiting the collection of other school fees.
“Today, total miscellaneous fees even exceed tuition for some schools. If you aim to make education accessible, you have to include overpriced miscellaneous fees in equation,” added Bagangan.
As such, the protesters are currently lobbying for the passage of House Bill 4800 or the Comprehensive Free Higher Education Bill.
Kabataan Partylist, the author of the bill, said the measure aims to grant free education while giving other financial support guarantees to students.
Meanwhile, protesters also express opposition to the K to 12 program and the possible introduction of mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) programs in senior high schools and tertiary schools.***