Bergoglio Awards for Service to the Community

Even as Pope Francis has just marked the fourth anniversary of his Pontificate this month, we can only marvel at the way the Holy Spirit has transformed the Church under his watch.  It is the same Church as it was under Benedict XIV and John Paul II and Pope Paul VI or Pope John XIII or even Pope Pius XII..  But I think it is a changed church: where the fresh air of the Spirit that once filled musty sacristies and cobwebbed chanceries after the Second Vatican Council seems once again to be blowing – challenging the Catholic Church to wake up to the realities of contemporary man and woman.

As Pope, Francis has let in the Spirit.

He has done so by the power of his persona, the integrity of his person, the force of his personality so inextricably intermingled with the saving action today of the Father showing Compassion for humanity in Jesus.

In his Gaudium Evangelii he has invited us to return to a personal encounter with Jesus and recover the joy of sharing the Gospel with others, especially the marginalized and excluded.

In his Laudato Si he has invited us to serious care for our common home, inviting us to challenge our cruel economies of consumption and waste that marginalize and exclude the poor and destroy the environment oftentimes irreparably.

In Amoris Laetitia, the joy of loving, he has invited us to reflect on the quality of our loving as it is nurtured in our families and homes.  He has invited us to compassion for those encountering difficulty in loving, inviting all to a deeper encounter with the love and mercy of Jesus.

In its Bergoglio Awards, UCEAC honors Francis before Pope Francis, the Argentinean Jorje Bergoglio born in Argentina on Dec 17, 1936 to a family of Italian immigrants.

Before he joined the Diocesan Seminary of Villa Devoto he gradated as a chemical technician from a technical school.

In 1958 – almost 60 years ago, – he joined he Jesuits.  He studied theology at the Colegio de San Jose and eared a doctoral degree in Freiburg in Germany.

In Feb 1998 he became the archbishop of Argentina.

He was known for his sober and austere simplicity, riding public transportation, carrying his own bags, and special concern for the poor and the marginalized,  criticizing the wealthy for their extravagant banquets while there we so many poor on the streets, often castigating government in his homilies for not responding to the needs of the poor.

In recalling the Bergoglio that eventually became the Pope,  UCEAC insists that you do not have to be a Pope to have the social sensitivity and commitment to the excluded of Bergoglio.

That being a Francis is not a matter of being a Pope or a Jesuit or a Franciscan or a priest or a religious or a Catholic or even believer,  but  is a matter of having a human heart for human beings – as Bergoglio did.  God does the rest.  He does so, restoring, renewing, uplifting joy, our common home, and love.

It is in this light that I congratulate Atty. Romeo Cabarde and the UCEAC for it new awards.  With the UCEAC, in the name of the ADDU, I am privileged to honor:

The Initiatives for International Dialogue for excellence in Peacebuilding;

The Interface Development Interventions for Excellence in Environmental Stewardship;

The Talikala, Inc. for excellence in promoting Gender Equality;

And the Integrated Gender and Development Office of the Office of the City-Mayor of Davao (IGDO-CMO) for excellence in Good Governance for the reasons cited in this celebration.

In the context of these Bergoglio awards, with the UCEAC I also express my deep personal appreciation to all of our units, sub-units and co-laborers who have in fulfillment of our mission and vision contributed to promoting social justice and the common good.

In honoring Jorge Bergoglio as we honor you, let us beg for the grace have a human heart for human beings – as we return to the joy of God’s Good News, commit ourselves to the care of our common home, and return to the joy of loving in our families and communities!

Posted in Address | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

God Joins Uwe and Jessa Together in Matrimony

[Homily: Marriage of Uwe and Jessa Panimdim, Old Tagum Cathedral, 11 March 2017]


My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, but especially Uwe and Jessa:

I feel very privileged to have been chosen to deliver this homily on this happy occasion.  In agreeing to do so, I confess I have had the active collaboration of Uwe and Jessa.  I asked them to choose the readings for today’s Mass from an array of many possible readings which I’d offered them.  That they chose the readings we have just listened to speaks of the spirit with which they come to this celebration of matrimony:  the desire to celebrate their union before God as one flesh, indivisible, and the desire to celebrate genuine love as the soul of their union.

With the Gospel reading, they celebrate themselves as male and female coming now together as one flesh.  “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  It is a very earthy coming together that is referred to, an ecstatic coupling in the flesh, ”so that they are no longer two but one flesh.”  But the emphasis of the scriptural passage chosen by Uwe and Jessa for this matrimonial ceremony is strong:  What God has joined together, let no man separate.” (cf. Mt. 19:3-6 ).  They come together in the flesh, but in this sacrament of Matrimony, God joins them together.  What God joins together, no one should pull apart.

With the reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, they share with us the nature of the love that joins them together.  There is arguably no more beautiful nor more profound description of love:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. …

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. (1 Cor 13:1.4-8)

Uwe and Jessa take this description of love and make it the description of their love.  This is their resolve.  Their love has been anything but a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  It has been rather quiet and unobtrusive, but alive and animated.  I asked them to write down on paper why it was that they were choosing to marry each other.

Some of their answers were on the level of feeling.

Uwe said, “She makes me feel I’m the most handsome guy – mas pogi daw kay Daniel Padilla.  She makes me feel very special.”

Jessa said, “He tells me I’m beautiful, even when I’m feeling messy.  He makes me feel he loves everything about me.  He makes me feel he’s grateful for having me in his life.”

Other answers were on the level of what they admired in each other:

Jessa said:  He is a family-oriented person.  He really loves his family;  he takes care of his family.  He is not a boy anymore;  he takes care of himself.  I feel safe being open and honest with him.  He is willing to lay down his life for me.

Uwe said:  She’s maganda;  she’s funny;  she’s independent;  marunong magluto.  She’s everything I prayed my wife would be.

Other replies were very honest.  Statements of struggle, of discomfort seeking relief, of misunderstanding seeking understanding, of goodness seeking perfection.

Jessa said:  sometimes he acts like he knows everything;  that annoys me.  But he only wants to give me the comfort and good quality of life he thinks I need.  He wants to better himself and be his best self.  He really works at our relationship. Three years ago we parted ways.  But after a while we realized we missed each other.  Now, we’re not afraid to express our true emotions; I feel safe being open and honest with him.

Uwe said:  she nags me like my mother.  Sometimes she’ll get offended at the smallest things I’d say.  We’d annoy each other and argue over small insignificant things.  But the more I’d spend time with her, the more I’d notice her flaws, the more I’d look at her, the more she’d nag and get grumpy, the more I’d notice her smile, the twinkle in her eye, the every small and big thing she’d do not only for me but for everyone close to her heart, the more I’d fall in love with her.  Having experienced the pain of separation and the joy of reconciliation, Uwe said, “Yes, with Bababs it’s possible to fall in love over and over again.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth,”  St. Paul says. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Uwe said:  “Thank God he laced my destiny with her!  She had me at the first Hello when I treated her and her friend to a 20-peso ice cream with my first salary.  I couldn’t ask for a more caring, loving woman, for someone who has more of a desire to share her life with me.  I have spent the happiest, saddest, most challenging three years of my life as her boyfriend, and I am looking forward to the rest of our lives together annoying each other!  I could not have gotten a better and more loving partner.   She is my girl best friend, my best girlfriend, my confidant, and the person who allows me to be me.  Jessa Marie is my soulmate, the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Jessa said:  “From the day we met to this very day, we are both working towards loving, giving and serving one another to the best of our ability.  I can trust without the shadow of a doubt that he will love me, support me, and make me his main priority in life.  He has always been my boy bestfriend and best boyfriend.  He’s the kind of friend willing to lay down his life for you.  That is love worth holding on to.

So today, we celebrate how in Uwe’s and Jessa’s life God brings them together in love.  We celebrate the sacredness of that love which they elevate today to the status of a sacrament, taken out of the privacy of their lives and allowed to shine for us all as a symbol of God’s love for the Church and of our love for God.  We pray for Uwe and Jessa that what God has joined together no person pull apart, and that the love that has begun to unfold so beautifully be blessed with healthy children, a healthy family, and supportive relatives and friends.  And may the challenges of your love today, Uwe and Jessa, find hope in the fullness of love that is yet to come:

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor 13).

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud….”  “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”



Posted in Homily | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bypass Passes the Buck to the President


A bypass is not a knockout.  In the case of a human being, a bypass can save a beating heart.

In this case, the human being was Gina Lopez.  The bypass was saving her heart beating for the Philippine environment – and for the Filipino poor she is convinced the environment should serve.

The bypass in the Commission on Appointments showed that she is not a lawyer, nor a mining engineer.  It showed that she had never entered the technical world of the geodetic scholars from UP.  It showed that her heart does not beat to the rhythms of those who invest big in the stock market, and certainly not of those  foreigners who dazzle the economists with their billions, then exploit and devastate the Philippine environment.

The bypass in the Commission on Appointments allowed that heart to continue beating as it did before she was appointed to the DENR – when everyone applauded her for cleaning up the Pasig river using her own energy and tapped private resources, when everyone recognized her role in restoring the trees and forest essential to Metro Manila’s La Mesa Dam, when environmentalists rallied with her in opposing mining in Palawan in favor of its outstanding biodiversity.  That heart, President Duterte recognized, is the heart of a crusader.  That is why he appointed her his DENR Secretary.  He recognized that her heart beats with the same arrhythmia as his, preferring the welfare of the rural poor and the Lumad over the welfare of the Makati magnates and foreign billionaires.

Such arrhythmia, it is clear, can be life threatening not only to a Secretary, but to a President as well.

The congressional bypass now passes the buck on Gina Lopez back to the President – who had asked the Commission on Appointments to hear Ms. Lopez out.  The pressure from the magnates was also on him.  It was a deft move of the CA that refused to deal the controversial yet popular secretary a death blow.  This secretary, they knew, was not lying.  She was in fact disarmingly simple in inviting the commissioners – even those who ought to have recused themselves from the hearings because of glaring conflicts of interests – to see the truth.  If the Philippine environment was to be saved, it could not be based on the developmental assumptions of the economy that has erstwhile so harmed the environmental and  kept its immediate stakeholders, the poor on the ground, so impoverished.

That was indeed the truth that could not be bypassed.

What was in fact remarkable was the way this so-called environmental crusader had been pursuing her responsibilities in the DENR.  She had not only been busy stopping the illegal logging and illegal mining activities that previous administrations had failed to curb, but paid extraordinary attention to the poor affected by the environment.  Her presentations were of admirable programs based on success stories designed to bring wealth to the poor by involving them in the preservation of the environment.  She was not just a heart bleeding for the environment, but a heart passionate about bringing wealth to the poor in restoring to their economic lives the environment that is first given to them.

Her vision is certainly not illusory.  At an address delivered by the Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua recently at Davao’s Marco Polo he said that he personally commits that the tourists from China in the new friendship forged by between Presidents Duterte and Xi Jinpin shall jump from 600,000 to a million this year, and can actually grow to many more millions annually.  Each tourist spends an average of US$1,800. per trip.  But he asked:  are we ready for this type of tourism?  Are we ready to offer Chinese tourists the accommodations and goods they shall be eager to patronise?  We must be able to offer them more than dried mangoes, he said.  In this context, Sec. Gina’s formula of empowering the local poor to protect the environment for ecotourism and developing them into wealthy tourism entrepreneurs makes economic sense.

Where so much of the conflict in Mindanao has been related to the operation of the mines, it also make sense in the peace process.

So the buck passes to President Duterte, who appoints in a cabinet secretary an alter-ego.  A crusader for the environment is not disqualified for the DENR because she is passionate about saving the Philippine environment, neither is one who thinks differently from the Makati magnates.  A crusader, as Pres. Duterte knows, is not disqualified from public office.  The competency of this crusader is in her heart for the poor.

Posted in Personal Views | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hope for Free Higher Education for All in SB 1304

The Senate has approved on second reading Senate Bill 1304, “The Free Higher Education for All Act.


Despite the limelight concerns the Senate has had dealing with the recantation of Mr. Arthur Lascañas, the confirmation or non-confirmation of DENR Sec. Gina Lopez and Foreign Affairs Sec. Perfecto Yasay, and the spectacle of yet another among its ranks incarcerated, the Senate quietly approved last March 7, 2017 a bill that brightens the prospects of all Filipinos desiring college degrees.

Originally, the bill was proposed by Sens. Bam Aquino and  Win Gatchalian for free tuition only in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).  But through a number of amendments introduced by Sen. Ralph Recto on the urging of leaders of the Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), the bill now provides not only for free higher education in the nation’s 113 SUCs, but also for tuition subsidy and financial assistance for students in private higher educational institutions (HEIs) and technical vocational institutions (TVIs) through strengthened Student Financial Assistance Programs (StuFAPs).

This is a landmark bill.  While the Constitution provides for free basic education for all, this bill provides a framework for funding universal access to higher education for all either through public or private higher educational institutions.

It explicitly recognizes the complementary roles of public and private higher educational institutions and technical-vocational institutions in delivering quality education in the Philippines.

All Filipinos currently enrolled in or shall enroll in state universities and colleges (SUCs) for any first undergraduate degree shall not have to pay tuition, provided they meet the entrance requirements of the SUC.  SUCs on the other hand shall stay at their current level of enrollment and may expand only subject to the conditions set and approved by CHED.

The CHED, through the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (“UNIFAST” cf. RA 10687), shall strengthen all scholarships, grants-in-aid, student loans, subsidies and other incentives.  Student Financial Aid Programs (StuFAPS) shall also be made available “to cover the cost of tertiary education, fully or partially, to students who wish to pursue tertiary education in other HEI’s or TVIs” (Sec 11).

“Students who wish to enroll in private HEIs and TVIs shall be covered by the appropriate STUFAPs in such modalities where they qualify as may be determined by the UNIFAST Board. The subsidy up to the amount approved by the UNIFAST Board shall cover tuition fees and/or any additional financial assistance to cover for the other costs of education in the private HEI and TVI of choice, subject to its admission policies.

“Provided that the amount of tuition subsidy and/or student financial assistance shall be based on the guidelines set forth by the UNIFAST Board and on the annual budgetary allocation for this purpose…” (Sec. 12)

The bill states that “the amount necessary to effectively carry out the provisions of this act shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act” (Sec. 13).

This means that the funding “for free higher education for all” shall be sustained.

The Senate has yet to pass this bill on third reading, but with the sponsors of the bill including senators from the majority and the minority, passage is likely.

Complementary legislation in the House of Representatives has been passed by the Commission on Technical and Higher Education.




Posted in Personal Views, Philippine Educational Reform | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Free Higher Education for All Act (S.B. No. 1304)


Page 1

OF THE PHILIPPINES                                                             )

First Regular Session                                                               )

Version 2

As of Mar 7, 2017, 10:30 AM



S.B. No. 1304

Prepared jointly by the Committees on Education Arts and Culture and Finance with Senators Recto, Villanueva, Ejercito, Aquino IV, Gatchalian, Pangilinan, Angara, Legarda as authors thereof




Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled:

1     SECTION. 1. Short Title. – This Act shall be known as the “Free Higher Education
2    for All Act.”

3       SEC. 2. Declaration of Policy. – It is hereby declared that
4      universal access to quality education is an inalienable right of the Filipino.
5      Therefore, it shall be the policy of the State to make higher education accessible to all,
6        especially to the financially disadvantaged but deserving students BY recognizing
7        The complementary roles of public and private higher education
8        institutions     (HEIs)     and technical-vocational institutions     (TVIs)     in
9        delivering quality education. Towards this end, the State shall renew its
10      constitutionally mandated duty to make education its top budgetary priority by
11     providing tuition subsidy and financial assistance
12     to students in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), private HEis and TVIs.

13     SEC. 3. Definition of Terms. – As used in this Act, these terms shall mean:
14         a) Cost of Tertiary Education refers to (1) tuition, and Other School Fees, (2)
15              Educational Expenses, and (3) the cost of living allowance;
16          b) Educational Expenses refer to expenses related to the education of a student,
17                such as books, school supplies, and electronic devices necessary foreducation,
18                but excluding tuition and miscellaneous and Other School Fees;
19           c) Higher Education refers to the stage of formal education, or its equivalent,
20               requiring completion of secondary education and covering programs of study
21                leading to bachelor and advanced degrees;


Page 2

1         d) Higher Education Institution (HEI) refers to an institution of higher learning,
2                   primarily offering bachelor and advanced degree programs;
3         e) Other School Fees refer to those fees which cover other necessary costs
4                     supportive of instruction, including, but not limited to, medical and dental,
5                      athletic, library, laboratory, and miscellaneous fees;
6        f) State Universitiesand Colleges(SUCs) refer to publicHEIsestablished by national
7                      laws which are financed and maintained by the national government, and are
8                      governed by their respective independent boards of trustees or regents;
9        g) Technical-Vocational Education and Training (TVET) refers to the post-secondary
10             education or training process which involves, in addition to general education,
11             the study of technical and related fields and the acquisition of practical skills
12             relating to occupations in various sectors, comprising formal (organized
13             programs as part of the school systems) and nonformal (organized classes
14             outside the school system) approaches;
15        h) Technical-Vocational Institutes (TVIs) refer to learning institutions offering post-
16              secondary TVET;
17        i)    Tertiary Education refers to the stage of education following the secondary cycle 18                which subsumes post-secondary nondegree diploma, TVET, and Higher
19                Education programs; and
20        j)    Tuition Fee refers to the fee representingdirect costs of instruction, training and 21                 other related activities and for the students’ use of the instruction and training 22                facilities;
23         k) Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST)
24              refers to the harmonized, state-run and administered system of Higher
25              Education and technical-vocational Scholarships, Grants-in-Aid, Student Loans, 26              and other modalities of StuFAP created by Republic Act No 10867;
27        l)    Student Financial Assistance Program (StuFAP) refers to a system of
28          Scholarships, Grants-in-Aid, Student Loans, subsidies and other incentives which
29            are or shall be made available to eligible students;
30        m) Grant-in-Aid refers to a modality of financial assistance to poor but eligible
31               students which generally requires a minimum level of competence to complete
32             Tertiary Education;
33       n) Scholarship refers to a modality of financial assistance given to eligible students
34             on the basis of merit and/or talent, such as laudable academic performance, and
35             special technicalproficiencies and skillsand intellectualpursuitsofa Scholar that
36           give rise to research and development, and innovations as well as other creative
37            works;
38       o) Student Loan refers to a modality of student financial assistance consisting of
39              short-term or long-term loans which shall be extended to students facing
40              liquidity problems, regardless of economic status, which shall be paid by the
41           student, parents, guardians, or co-makers;

42     SEC. 4. Eligibility to the Full Tuition Subsidy. – All Filipino citizens who are either
43     currently enrolled at the time of effectivity of this Act, or shall enroll at any time
44     thereafter, in courses in pursuance of a bachelor’s degree, certificate degree, or any
45     comparable undergraduate degree in any SUC shall qualify for a full tuition subsidy;
46    Provided, That they meettheadmission requirementsof the SUC;Providedfurther, That


Page 3

1   all SUCs shall create a mechanism to enable students with the financial capacity to pay
2  for their education in the SUC to opt out of the tuition subsidy or to make a donation to
3   the school.

4     SEC. 5. Exceptions to the Full Tuition Subsidy. — The following are ineligible to
5        avail of the full tuition subsidy in SUCs:

6     a) Persons who have already attained a bachelors degree or equivalent degree
7            from any higher education institution, whether public or private;
8     (b) Students who fail to complete their degree and/or non-degree
9             programs within a year after the period prescribed in their
10           program; and
11     [(b)] (c) Persons who have been dishonorably discharged from any higher education
12               institution, whether public or private, for any reason other than financial
13               difficulty in paying tuition and other fees.

14   SEC. 6. SUC Tuition Subsidy Fund. – The SUC Tuition Subsidy Fund, hereinafter referred
15  to as the Fund, is hereby established. The Fund shall be used solely for the purpose
16  of implementing the full tuition subsidyunder the provisions of this Act. Tuition
17  for units enrolled by persons eligible for the tuition subsidy under the provisions of this
18  Act, payable to SUCs, shall be sourced from this Fund.

19   SEC. 7. Administration of the Fund. – The Fund shall be administered by the
20    Commission on Higher Education (CHED), which shall have the following powers and
21     functions:

22     a) Manage and administer the Fund;
23      b) Devise a reporting mechanism to be implemented by the SUCs which will detail
24           the exact amount of tuition subsidy availed of by persons eligible for the full
25           tuition subsidy under this Act;
26      c) Formulate and implement an efficient and transparent mechanism to ensure the
27           payment of the tuition subsidy, utilizing money from the Fund, to the respective
28           SUCs, pursuant to this Act;
29      d) Resolve and mediate disputes concerning the ineligibility or disqualification of
30             persons from the full tuition subsidy under the provisionsof this Act or any other
31            provision of this law; and
32      e) Any other powers or functions necessary for the implementation of the
33            provisions of this Act.

34     SEC. 8. Requirements for SUCs. – SUCs are hereby mandated to fulfill the
35        following before accessing the Fund:

36      a)    Establish a qualifying mechanism, which shall be meritocratic and equitable.
37              This shall include but not be limited to a qualifying examination and an
38               affirmative action mechanism for financially disadvantaged students;
39  b)       Determine and publish the maximum number of students the SUC can
40             accommodate per campus  and degree program.    For    the    initial
41             implementation of this Act, the maximum number of students SUCs may
42             accept shall be equivalent to the total number of students that were enrolled
43           in the school year prior to the effectivity of this Act. For subsequent years,


Page 4

1        SUCs may increase their number of students subject to conditions set by and
2                                     upon the approval of CHED;
3        c)        Submit the following documents to assist the CHED in implementing this Act: 4                    i.            Previous enrollment rate, student demographics and other relevant
5                                            information;
6                    ii.      Graduation rate, performance in previous licensure examinations,
7                                            and employability rate of graduates;
8                   iii.     Gross tuition receipts;
9                    iv.     Teachers’ welfare and training profiles; and
10                   v.     Other educational quality indicators, including but not limited to
11                          physical learning infrastructures, teacher-to-student ratio and student
12                            housing; and
13         d)       Formulate and submit to CHED and
14                    to the committee on education of the senate and the
15                    committee on higher and technical education of the house of
16                    representatives a detailed SUC Development Plan updated every ten
17                   years, which shall include plans for facilities and infrastructure development
18                    and expansion.

19      The submissions to CHED shall be subject to the Commission’s determination of
20      completeness. Provided, That CHED shall have the right to request for additional
21        information from the SUCs. Provided further, that any plans of expansion shall be
22       approved and defended before CHED and Congress during the SUCs’ budget hearing.

23  SEC. 9. Tuition Report. – The President of each SUC shall submit to the CHED,
24 within five (5) days after the last day of late registration for each semester, a report
25 detailing the names of persons eligible for the full tuition subsidy in their institution, as
26 well as the amount of tuition due based on the number of units enrolled.

27 SEC. 10. Payment from the Fund. — The CHED shall ensure the full payment of tuition
28  due to the state university or college, as reported under this Act, no later than
29 thirty days after the submission of the report to the CHED; Provided, That the CHED
30  shall reserve the right to withhold or disallow the payment of any reported fees which 31   are perceived to be anomalous or irregular until further investigation has been
32   conducted.

33  SEC. 11. Strengthening Student Financial Assistance Programs (StuFAP). – The CHED,
34  through UniFAST, shall strengthen all scholarships, grants-in-aid, student loans,
35  subsidies and other incentives, to other educational expenses and cost of living
36  allowance that will be incurred by students pursuing higher education in SUCs and
37  private HEIs and TVIs. StuFAPs shall also be made available
38  to cover the cost of tertiary education, fully or partially, to students who wish to pursue
39  tertiary education in other HEIs or TVIs.

40  SEC. 12. Tuition subsidy and financial assistance for students in
41         private HEIs and TVIs. Students who wish to enroll in private HEIs and TVIs
42        shall be covered by the appropriate STuFAPs in such modalities where they
43        qualify as may be determined by the uniFAST board. The subsidy up to the
44        amount approved by the uniFAST board shall cover tution fees and/or


Page 5

1         Any additional student financial assitance to cover for the other costs
2         of education in the private HEI and TVI of choice, subject to its admission
3         policies.

4         provided, that the amount of tuition subsidy and/or student financial
5         assistance shall be based on the guidelines set forth by the uniFAST board
6         and on the annual budgetary appropriation for this purpose.

7         Provided further, that the conditions stipulated under section 5 of this
8         act shall also apply to students qualified under this section.

9    SEC. 13. Appropriations. – The amount necessary to effectively carry
10  out the provisions of this act shall be included in the annual General
11    Appropriations Act.

12   SEC.  14. Implementing Rules and Regulations. – Within sixty (60) days from
13   the effectivity of this Act, the CHED shall promulgate the implementing rules and
14    regulations necessary for the implementation of this Act.

15  SEC. 15. Separability Clause. – Should any provision herein be declared unconstitutional,
16  the same shall not affect the validity of the other provisions of this Act.

17   SEC. 16. Repealing Clause. – All laws, decrees, orders, rules, and regulations
18    or other issuances or parts inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby
19   repealed or modified accordingly.

20  SEC. 17. Effectivity. – This Act shall take effect fifteen (15) days after its
21  publication in the Official Gazette or in two (2) newspapers of general circulation in the
22  Philippines.





Posted in Official Document, Philippine Educational Reform | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Counterproposal:  Don’t tax quality schools

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez apparently wants the government to tax the income that Catholic schools are generating from tuition and other fees.[1]   In so doing he has asked the BIR to study how the government can collect taxes from schools run by religious institutions.

Apparently, the Speaker has been irked by the position of certain schools against a proposed bill.

But Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez III told lawmakers that such as religious schools are exempt from paying taxes. He quoted Art. VI, Sec. 28 of the 1987 Constitution:

“Charitable institutions, churches and convents, mosques, non-profit cemeteries, and all lands, buildings, improvements actually, directly and exclusively used for religious, charitable or educational purposes shall be exempt from taxation.” We thank Finance Sec. Dominguez for pointing this out.

The Constitution is in fact more explicit for non-stock, non-profit schools. “All revenues and assets of non-stock, non-profit educational institutions used actually, directly, and exclusively for educational purposes shall be exempt from taxes and duties” (Art. XIV, Sec 3). The provision is self-executory.

The same article further states: “Subject to conditions prescribed by law, all grants, endowments, donations, or contribution used actually, directly and exclusively for educational purposes shall be exempt from tax” (Art. XIV, Sec. 4).

Revenues of non-stock non-profit schools, as all 1500 members schools of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) are, do not go to the pockets of individual investors, but are plowed back to improve the educational operation of the school. The quality of among the best schools in the country is supported by the private students and patrons of the schools.

In the recent Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Survey, eight Philippine Universities made it to the top 350 in Asia. Of these, one was a State university, another was Protestant-Christian, and six were Catholic universities.

I think it is time to stop bad-mouthing private and Catholic schools for the contribution they are making to Philippine education. Long before the public schools were instituted in the Philippines respectable Catholic schools were operating. Among these were the University of Sto. Tomas (1611), the Ateneo de Manila University (1859) and the Universidad de Sta. Isabel (1867).  They operate first and foremost to provide quality Catholic education to their students.

They have operated primarily on the basis of private funds and private support, even though their contribution to quality education for the country is a common good that government ought fund more.

This is the basis for their tax exemption.

As our Constitution mandates: “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all” (Art. XIV, Sec. 1).

“The State shall (1) establish, maintain and support a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society” (Art. XIV, Sec. 2[1]).

Finally, “The State recognizes the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the educational system…”

The non-stock, non-profit Catholic schools are contributing to the Philippine system of quality education for all for which the State is ultimately responsible.

The rationale for their tax exemption is not that they are serving the poor, even though the majority of CEAP’s schools serve the poor directly, but because they are contributing to Philippine Educational System of quality for which the State has ultimate responsibility.

The rationale for tax exemption is not because higher education supports every position that the national leadership may propose, but to support communities of competent thinkers who can take positions critically and contribute to articulating the imperatives of the common good.

Were the non-stock, non-profit Catholic schools not to operate, the direct educational costs for the State would increase dramatically. Indeed, were the for-profit schools not to operate the educational costs for the State would increase accordingly.

Rather than tax non-stock, non-profit schools, prohibited by the Constitution, remove taxes on all quality schools, even for-profit schools.

For this is not simply a matter of cost. It is a matter of supporting the Philippine Educational System in such manner that the output is of quality. Essential to quality is critical thought. We want our educational communities – public and private – to take their reflected positions on the death penalty, the war on drugs, the peace processes, historical revisionism, the environment, corruption, and on the demands of right and wrong. Otherwise, we do not want education.

I ask the good Speaker to support quality education.


[1] Cf:

Posted in Personal Views | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ash Wednesday and Gina Lopez’ “Secret”


Today is Ash Wednesday.  On this day I would like to share with you a profound experience with Gina Lopez.

I consider it one of the privileges of my life to have conferred the honorary doctorate of the Ateneo de Naga University on the environmentalist, Gina Lopez.  This was in 2011.  Our Board of Trustees had decided on the award because of her outstanding commitments to the environment as a private citizen.  She’d returned the trees to La Mesa Dam.  She’d cleaned up the Pasig.  She’d spearheaded a campaign for no mining in environmentally-rich Palawan. In Bicol she’d helped our university and our Bikolano stakeholders fight a mine in Rapu-Rapu that had been responsible for a huge fish kill due to heavy metals dumped into the sea.

So when she got up to give her response, everyone thought that she’d naturally speak about the environment.  Eventually she did.  But not without first sharing with our graduates what she styled as a great secret.

“I’ll tell you a secret,” she announced. “Do not forget it.  If you do, I will ask Fr. Joel to take away your diplomas!”  When she had everyone’s attention, when she had everyone thinking they were going to learn Gina Lopez’s special formula for energetic advocacy for the environment, she said – practically in a whisper:

“There is a God.”

And there being a God, she enjoined each ADNU graduate – no matter his religion, no matter her chosen profession – to get in personal contact with that God.  On that contact, no matter how achieved, the meaningful life would depend.

Next, she said:  there being a God, everyone must find time for silence in one’s life – deep personal silence.  “Without silence,” she said, “forces in the world will pull you in different directions and tear you apart.  Then you will no longer know who you are.”

Finally, only in the context of a deep personal relationship with God and of silence in one’s life is one able to appreciate the gift of the environment, given to us all as God’s gift.  Only from there do we experience the imperative to care for it.

On this Ash Wednesday, these three points of Gina Lopez may provide us precious food for thought.

Some are so full of themselves, they forget Gina’s first message.  It strikes the sadly ignorant or the crassly arrogant as a great secret:  “There is a God.”  It is God who sets the absolutes.   There is life; there is death. There is truth; there is untruth.  There is heaven; there is hell.  It is not man, no matter how powerful, who is the Lord of these absolutes.  God is.

Then, silence.  We spend so much time trying to escape silence, filling our lives with the noise that drowns out the silence and makes the communication with loved ones, including God, near to impossible.  We are afraid of silence; we fear its demands.  But silence has a way of breaking through in our lives. Or, in time, we finally break through to the silence of our lives.  This silence is not a void; it is the fullness, the truth, that makes all the difference.  In this silence, we may more deeply appreciate a central message of this day, “Remember, Man, remember, Woman, you are dust.  Unto dust you shall return.”  “Turn away from sin.  Believe in God’s Good News.”  In this silence, we may more clearly hear the voice of conscience.  Many of us don’t like that voice.  But it is there, deep within.

“Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey.  Its voice ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment….For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God….His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary.  There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (Gaudium et spes, 16)

Only in acknowledging God and in obedience to the silent imperatives of our conscience can we navigate the challenges of our contemporary environment:  news and fake news, facts and alternative facts, political expediencies and moral imperatives, right and wrong, good and evil.  We are called to do good, and avoid evil.  Not to do evil to do good.  We are called to protect life, not kill it.  There is no politician who is God, and no party discipline that silences conscience.  We are called to live before God in silent consolation, not in self-condemning shame.

Only in taking silent responsibility for our common home, which is not only in fresh air and clean water, but in rational national leaders of conscience,  can we lift up our heads to our God in joy.



Posted in Personal Views, Points for Prayer, Prayer and Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment