The Lethal Bomb in CMO 9 s. 2013

I have worked with the poor for many years. I have learned: if you want them to pay their debts, which are usually many, the debts they owe you must be among their top priorities.

That is certainly the case with housing. If people know they will lose their house if they don’t pay their mortgages, they pay.

That is why housing on credit works, if there is the political will to collect what homeowners, even among the poor, owe for their houses. Many politicians build houses for votes; they tell the people they would have to pay for their houses, but they never collect; they prefer their votes; they have already received their reward. Other caritative housing projects proceed on the assumption that the homeowners cannot pay for their houses; so they get other people, individual and institutional benefactors, to pay. The late Bishop Philip Smith of the Diocese of Cotabato believed the people could pay. And he proved that over and over again. To get people to pay their debts, you have to convince them that negative consequence occur when they do not.

Bishop Smith built thousands of houses for the poor, for which eventually they paid. They paid their mortgages on time, which paid for their houses, which allowed more houses to be built. If they did not pay, they knew they would be evicted. If they did not pay, they were evicted. So rather than be evicted, they paid. On time.

Here, for the good of the sector that needed housing, the “compassionate policy” was to demand that the people pay for what they enjoyed. Absent this form of compassion, the production of houses would grind to a halt. Housing for the poor would remain the hovels in the slums, ovens in the hot season, lakes of slime in the rainy season, depressed in the abiding fear of demolition.

There are important parallels in the educational industry. God may will that all be educated, Filipinos may crave education, or even higher education, and the youth may espouse a right to education. But as admirable as these may be, education does not fall from heaven. You may be able to teach your child the alphabet, how to read “papa” and “mama” and how to count to 100, but alone you would probably not be able to teach a child enough to be able to function productively in society as an architect, an engineer, a social scientist, a biologist, a doctor, a teacher, a philosopher or even a priest. You may even have difficulty giving your child instruction in human sexuality, inter-gender and inter-generational communication, religion and morality, and how to make a living, survive and thrive in today’s world. For that you may need the service of education. Education is a complex social enterprise, which is an “enterprise” not only because it aims at leading persons out of darkness to speculative and practical truth, but also because as a complex human undertaking it must sustain itself. Teachers must be paid, staff must be salaried, researches must be compensated, investors must be rewarded for putting their human and financial capital in education and not in horse racing. At bottom, income must exceed expenses for the long term. Why? Someone must pay for education. Either the taxpayers pay for it, or people pay for it out of their private pockets. When politicians promise “free” education, smile, and say “Yeah! But someone is paying for it!” When students demand “free” education, smile, and say, “Unfortunately, good education doesn’t just fall down from heaven.” When anyone says, “Be compassionate, and forgive them their debts!” Beware: the Kingdom of God may be at hand. But your teachers won’t be able to eat IOUs, your staff won’t arrive without appropriate transportation, and your students will revolt against hungry teachers who eat them up during exams rather than the breakfast due them.

The State Universities and Colleges, created by law, are funded by taxpayers’ money and allocations in the national budget; so too, ultimately, local colleges and universities through budgets funded by local ordinances. Funding them depends on the ability of their administrators to maintain or expand operational budgets; they do this with great political savvy, passionate personal dedication, and great diplomatic cunning. Private colleges and universities do this through contracts made between the HEIs and the students (or their parents). The institution offers an educational good, the students return a monetary good – all in commutative justice. The institution receives the sum of all monetary goods and parlays it to keep the educational service going. When the students or their families have much money, this is less problematic than when students and their families have less money, and the expenses of the family compete fiercely with each other for attention. Working with such families, it is essential that the families put payments for education among their top five priority expenses, just like Archbishop Smith convinced poor homeowners that if they did not pay their mortgages, eviction would follow. They need to know, that if they do not pay, a negative consequence occurs. To avoid the negative consequence, pay. On time. In private colleges and universities, this is effected through the “No permit, no payment” system. It is through this system that the school convinces the students and their parents that without its required cash flow, it cannot survive, and without their monetary goods, they must give way to students who can provide this. The smaller the school, the more important this system is – not just to keep the school alive, but to keep the student studying.

It is most unfortunate therefore that the CHEd, in an apparent outpouring of “compassion” for vulnerable students, but in a total lack of concern for its effect on private HEIs, has issued CMO 9 series of 2013, supposedly on “Student Affairs and Services,” but laden with a killer bomb:

“There shall be mechanisms for HEIs to institutionalize more compassionate policies and guidelines particularly for those students belonging to the vulnerable and/or marginalized sector of our country. The HEIs must provide access on any financial assistance [sic] in cases where the stated students can not pay on the particular moment. In no case shall the HEI implement “no permit, no exam policy” [sic] in case of financial incapacities of the said students” (Sec. 25.3).

Atty. Joseph Estrada, Executive Director of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), is livid with the complaint that whereas there were consultations on CMO 9, all of whose sessions he attended, there was absolutely no consultation on this unhappy provision. The issue is one that the COCOPEA and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) had consistently rejected under other draft policy incarnations for its necessarily negative impact on small private schools. Nevertheless, in CMO 9 it has appeared – as an insertion. It is inserted in bad faith. It is inserted in skewed rationality. In the end, CHED must take responsibility.

That is what is disappointing. CHED ought to prize rationality and champion integrity. It ought to honor its partners, not deceive them.

Most troubling here is the fact that I am certain CHEd is aware of the importance of cash flow to the smaller private schools. CHEd, I presume, is not obtuse. Why then is it doing what it is doing in such a despicable manner? Is it trying to kill private schools? Is it trying to end the illustrious role private education has played in the history of this nation? Is it steering the country into a national educational system where there are no private universities and few private tertiary institutions? Is it trying to control higher education and form a network of docile government-run HEIs – without the tradition, the diversity, the experience, the wisdom, the creativity and headache of private education?

Sec. 25.3 of CMO 9 certainly gives us this impression.

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
This entry was posted in Personal Views and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Lethal Bomb in CMO 9 s. 2013

  1. Yes, I share your thoughts on this, Joel. Ched’s CMO 9 s.2013 creates more questions than answers to the growing need for higher education. There is no education in “dole outs”. Also private school teachers involved must implement “no permit, no exam” policy as a matter of justice to the school that pays them the right salary and on time.

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