Pope Francis has invited the priests, the religious and the laypersons who are involved in our 1497 schools to seek their holiness precisely in the running of our schools. This involves an ever deeper union of ourselves with Christ the Teacher, in his being the Way, the Truth and the Life, and in his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, for which he was killed and was resurrected.
In running our schools in the Philippines we contribute to the one Philippine Educational System which according to the Philippine Constitution is the responsibility of the State. [Art. XIV, Sec. 2 (1)]. In that one system the complementary roles between public and private schools is recognized. [Art. XIV, Sec. 2 (4)]
If the members of the CEAP are to find holiness in education it must find it in contributing to and strengthening this one Philippine Educational System. CEAP’s educational responsibility under this one system is not only the maintenance and improvement of its own schools, big and small, urban and rural, in the northern areas ravaged by Typhoon Ompong, as well as in areas populated by non-Catholics like the regions covered by the Bangsamoro Organic Law and in mountain regions where it serves the needs of indigenous peoples. CEAP’s educational responsibility is for the health of the one Philippine Educational System.
That is why in promoting the health of this one Philippine Educational System CEAP partners not only with the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) but also with the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC). In promoting the one system of Philippine Education, CEAP is proud to work with other educators also passionate about delivering excellent education who dedicate their lives to the education of the Philippine youth.
It is in this context that the CEAP today raises is objections to the skewed implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10931).
As an earlier version of this law entitled “Free Education in State Colleges and Universities’ was considered, not only CEAP, but also COCOPEA and the PASUC, but also even the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) opposed this version.
The goal of universal access to quality tertiary education was good. But to promote universal access simply by providing for free education only in SUCs and LCUs was unrealistic and detrimental to the one Philippine System of Education. It would (a) overpopulate the SUCs and LCUs, (b) militate against their quality, and (c) adversely affect the private schools. Free education in SUCs alone would draw students away from private schools which live on tuition and fees; free education supported by the state would draw teachers away from private schools due to the higher legislated wages of the public schools. Such a law, we argued, which destroyed the complementarity between public and private schools, would be unconstitutional.
It was also considered unequitable and unjust that all students of SUCs, whether rich or poor, would benefit from free education. It was considered unequitable and unjust that the children of the rich in such SUCs as the University of the Philippines would enjoy free tuition while students who were poor would be turned away for lack of space.
It was in this context that explicit statements in the law were made recognizing the complementarity between public and private schools. In its declaration of policy RA 10931 states: “…the State hereby recognizes the complementary roles of public and private HEIs and technical-vocational institutions in the educational system and the invaluable contribution that the private tertiary schools have made and will make to education. For these intents the State shall [among others]
(b) Provide all Filipinos with equal opportunity to quality tertiary education in both public and private educational institution.” (RA 10931, Sec. 2).
It is for this reason RA 10931 is emphatically not a “Free Tuition in SUCs” law. It is as Sec. 1 states, the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act” providing access not only to students through SUCs but also private HEIs.
Crucial therefore in this law are the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) of Sec. 7 and the Student Loan Program for Tertiary Education (SLPTE) of Sec 8.
The TES would provide a subsidy equivalent to the cost of national public HEIs to qualified students opting to private HEIs.
The SLPTE would be available to qualified students opting for quality private HEIs whose tuition and fees were higher than what could be covered by the TES.
The TES and the SLPTE were therefore two major provisions of the law that would maintain the complementarity between the public and private HEIS as demanded by the Constitution.
The law was passed on August 3, 2017. Sixty days later the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRRs) of this law should have been published.
But today, October 3, 2018, one year and two months after the passage of the law, the Unified Student Financial System for Tertiary Education (UNIFAST) has failed to clearly publish the IRRs governing the implementation of the TES and the SLPTE crucial for the private and Catholic schools are not published. Money has been allocated for 300,000 beneficiaries under the TES, but it is as of yet not yet clearly accessible. Making it accessible is a work in progress. Therefore, even without access to the lists of the beneficiaries according to the law (e.g. the “Listahanan 2.0 mentioned in RA 10931, Sec 7), our schools are now being asked by CHED OIC Prospero de Vera urgently to submit lists of our possible beneficiaries – our poor, needy and deserving students – for processing through the TES Application Portal of the Unifast by October 30. This is an extended deadline. If the deadline is not met, the budgetary allocations will be lost and future allocations jeopardized.
The Philippine Educational Assistance Committee (PEAC) is helping. PEAC is qualified to administer the TES because of its experience in implementing the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE). But up to today, the appointment of PEAC to administer the TES is still outstanding.
Today, one year and two months after the passage of the law, the vast majority of our Catholic schools have suffered deep cuts in their enrollment, killing or threatening programs that are crucial to the health of the one System of Private Education.
Later, Atty Roselle Barluan, will present some of the data we have gathered from a random sample of our schools to show the effect of the skewed implementation of RA 10931 on our schools.
Meanwhile let me note another offence against complementarity that may warrant an amendment in the law. Students who wish to benefit from the TES or the SLPTE in private HEIs must be “qualified,” i.e., come from the lowest four deciles of our society. This is not unreasonable, considering the social justice thrust of the 1987 Constitution. However, those studying in SUCs benefit from free tuition irregardless of their economic status. CEAP and COCOPEA consider this inequitable and unjust.
Allow us also to note that during the recent budget deliberations in Congress it was clear that preparations are being made for yet another round of salary increases for teachers in public schools and HEIs. This would be in further implementation of the Salary Standardization Law. While we have no objection to public school teachers being better paid for their educational services, considering the increased salaries today of policemen and soldiers, we must point out that the teachers in the private school system, many of them in our Catholic schools, contribute as much to the proper functioning of the one Philippine educational system as the teachers in the public school system. Both systems also educate the poor. But when the public school systems are funded by legislative fiat, and the private school system is funded by whatever their poor students can give them in tuition and fees, the State should also be able to compensate private school teachers for their service in teaching the poor, even when under our difficult economic conditions, the poor cannot afford the tuition and fees that quality education demands. In this context, we have worked with legislators to pass legislation directly funding the salaries of our private schools. About this, Atty Joseph Estrada, may have more to say on this.
Meanwhile, in a situation where we are all concerned about inflation in the Philippines and its effect of the poor, we cannot escape the fact that it is government policy driving up the inflation. In the educational sector, it is the increased government salaries for teachers that tends to increase the salaries in the private sector and the general costs of education. In the general national economy, this has been the TRAIN law.
In this context, CEAP is one with the COCOPEA in opposing increased taxes even in for-profit private schools. What is important is the contribution all our schools make to the one system of private Education according to the covenants and agreements that the schools have with their students, their parents and benefactors. Private schools have suffered enough due to the implementation of the k-12 law (RA 10533) and the skewed implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10931).
Finally, allow me to reiterate CEAP’s support along with the COCOPEA for the formal appointment of Dr. Prospero de Vera as Chairman of the CHED. Chairman de Vera has come to dialogue with us on the many issues that confront Higher Education today, and we believe we can work well with him. We believe that it is time to stabilize the CHED and insulate it from politics.
Our thanks to our friends in the media for participating in our CEAP Press Conference!