CEAP and Senior High School


[Welcome Address:  CEAP National Basic Education Summit, San Jose Recolletos University, Cebu, 17 Feb. 2017]

After the beautiful liturgy presided over by Msgr. Ely Fuentes and the warm welcome accorded us by our gracious host, Fr. Christopher Maspara, of the University of San Jose Recolletos, it is my privilege as President of CEAP to welcome you to this National Basic Education Summit focusing especially on “opportunities, concerns and challenges faced by the private schools” – perhaps even especially by Catholic schools – “in the implementation of the Senior High School Program.”

The K-12 reform, we all know, was a necessary reform.  In the world we were one of two countries that did not have ten full years of basic education.  Our high school students were graduating at the age of 16 – still really too young to join the work force as adults and in many cases not ready for the challenges of college.  Our basic education curriculum was too congested, our schools trying to do in ten years what other countries do in twelve.  In our colleges, many of our courses were regularly remedial in nature, making up for deficiencies of basic education.

Implementing K-12

So the country took a deep breath, and bit the bullet.  With the political will of the Aquino administration and under the leadership of Brother Armin Luistro, the country embraced the K-12 reform.  Our association, CEAP, supported it fully.  To the ten years of basic education we added from the bottom a Kindergarten to better insure the survival of the grade school cohorts, and on top of ten years, we added two years.  Some of us thought these additions would be simple; we were very wrong.  We did not want it to be just a continuation of elementary education,  we also did not want it to be a college.  We wanted something sui generis – unique – in between the  basic education high school and the adult culture of college.  Early on, I wanted to call it a “career academy” – to focus it on preparation of youth for adult careers.  But in the end it was called senior high school, distinguishing it from what is now called junior high school and preparing its learners for a more mature college or for work in the labor mainstream.

You know as well as I that many of us really could not imagine how it could happen, and what role we could play in its realization.  Up to today, many of us still don’t believe it has happened and are amazed at the role we are playing in its implementation.  Despite opposition to the reform and confusing statements made by politicians who should have known better, more than a million senior high school students enrolled into Senior High School’s 11th grade at the beginning of this academic year.  Some of them have landed in the schools we had prepared with much uncertainty and trepidation – not quite knowing whether we would get students, or whether we would have enough classrooms or laboratories or teachers to care for them if they came.  We have welcomed them mostly into the SHS  academic track – some of them into the STEM strand, others in HUMMS, others in ABM, yet others in General Education.  Some of us have been elated by this experience, others bruised or burned.  Some of us are bitter, some of us happy, most of us quietly hopeful, trusting in the Lord that missions us to our educational service, but also in ourselves.

That is why we have gathered here at this summit:  to listen in hope to experts who can help us with the senior high schools we have given birth to after much anticipation, worry, expenditure, labor and pain.   With Msgr. Ely Fuentes and the organizing members of the National Basic Educational Commission, it is my privilege to welcome you all, participants and distinguished speakers. Dr. Dina Abad, DepEd Undersecretary for Programs and Projects, will be speaking, so too Atty. Joseph Estrada, our legal luminary, on educational issues, and even Doris Ferrer of PEAC who will update us on our favorite topic, the SHS vouchers.   There will be best practices shared, even insights offered on Vocational Technical education.

More Challenges

As president of the CEAP and for the next few months the chair of the COCOPEA, allow me to say what your other speakers may not say:

First, despite all the problems we may be experiencing in running our SHSs and working with the government vouchers that have become so important for so many of our schools, we have to be grateful that more government money is supporting our learners and teachers in SHS through the voucher program.  In the educational environment today, that is not something we can take for granted.  In the SHS there is a huge partnership between government and private schools that is working itself out.  It is a partnership that we must acknowledge in gratitude and support through the quality service we offer in our Senior High Schools.  The partnership needs to be expanded through the increased values of the vouchers that students bring to us in choosing our schools and through increased teacher subsidies that would put our teachers on par with teachers in public schools.  In the end both private and public school teachers contribute in complementarity to the education of Filipino students in a single Philippine educational system;  it is only fitting that government support all our teachers equally.

Second, we must organize ourselves and our stakeholders into supporting our senior high schools either through their own private contributions in cash or kind or through working together to gain more public support for our senior high schools  through increased government subsidies.  We must learn how to go to our congressmen and senators, our mayors and our governors, our councilors and board members and win their solid support for our schools.  In winning their support our numbers are important.  Ten people visiting a congressman is more effective than two, and one-hundred more convincing than ten.   On the CEAP regional level, we must be organized to bring our concerns effectively to our public officials.  Good education is not merely a private good, it is a common good.

Third, no matter the numbers, the argument for our schools will fall flat if our schools fail to deliver quality education.  This means at least reaching the minimum standards prescribed by DepEd.  Better, it means distinguishing ourselves in our schools through excellence in achieving learning outcomes;  this implies having capable and dedicated teachers; it mean have proper facilities and competent administrators.  Quality means achieving what our vision and mission mandates our schools to achieve.  It means satisfying the stakeholders of our schools, our parents, our families, our barangay and parish communities, our nation and Church.  For quality, the role of external bodies with the external instruments for checking quality will increase in importance.  This means, the role of our internal quality assurance mechanisms will also increase, where our schools take primary responsibility for insuring our quality.

Finally, as CEAP schools, we must discover the special niche of the Senior High School in forming the learner into a good Christian.  This is a work in progress, subject to actual experience unfolding.  Clearly the SHS learner is no longer a child, even though he or she is not quite an adult.  He or she is mastering the basics, equipping  him/herself  solidly for work in the labor mainstream or for the interdisciplinary challenges of college general education and the focused challenges of professional education.  For the SHS learner there is so much to discover, so much to explore, so much to integrate as adolescence explodes into adulthood.  There is energy, enthusiasm and vitality, even when sometimes there is distraction, despondency and boredom.  This is why instruction and formation in SHS are especially challenging, certainly calling forth the best from our teachers in care for the individual and innovativeness in pedagogy for all.  Especially in religious education – where the fundamentals of the faith must be learned and owned, and the challenges of the social doctrine of the Church including concepts like the dignity of man, the universal destination of goods, the social mortgage of private property, subsidiarity, solidarity and the common good must be learned and imbibed for Christian Catholic leadership in our society, the teacher must not only be an outstanding communicator; he/she must be an authentic witness. For all this, the administrator must be at heart a genuine educator.

These are exciting times.  Thank you for accepting the challenges of SHS as Catholic educators.  Welcome to this CEAP Summit on Senior High School!

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Happy Valentines’ Day! 

lewis-carrollWhether or not you have the appropriate red shirt to wear today or have the money to bring your beloved out on a date, it is good today to celebrate love with the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13:

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. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

I may be many things, a married person or a celibate, an elder or a youth, a corporate manager or a union leader, bishop or a politician, a warrior or a lover, but if I do not have love, I am nothing.

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.

Many times I say I love, and many times I think I do.  But often, the way I act contradicts what I say and belies what I think.  I lose my cool; I scheme to be mean. I envy those better off than me.  I boast of my sins, rather than repent of them, using bravado to drown out the guilt.  I am chronically angry and complaining, because lacking love, I find no joy.  Evil which feeds my anger is more of a delight than truth that calls forth love.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 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.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 

Love never fails.  But we do, thinking power and violence and toughness never fail.  We continue to behave like children fixated on games of war and peace, of power and coercion, of punishment, retribution and death. We see unhappily, only partially.  Failing in love, we fail in being fully human

Love is patient, love is kind… 

And:  “God is love: whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 Jn 4:16).  Notice God in you loving.  Live him in your every kiss and embrace.  Live him in your every kindness. Welcome him in you being loved.  Be grateful in accepting him.  Be humble; you don’t deserve him.  Yet, he loves you.  Love loves you.

Happy Valentines’ Day!

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Choosing between Hell with Duterte and Heaven with the CBCP


choosing-between-hell-with-duterte-and-heaven-with-the-cbcpIf I must choose between going to hell with President Duterte in pursuit of the war on drugs in the Philippines or going to heaven with Abp. Soc Villegas because neither he nor any of the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines “find pleasure in the death of anyone who dies” (cf. Ezekiel 18:32), I choose going to heaven with the CBCP, even if their company and their language is neither as colorful nor as entertaining as that of the President.

People jest that going to hell could be heavenly because all the “nice” people opting to go there. After fighting his war on drugs to rid the Philippines of drug addicts and drug lords, the President may be dismayed to discover that hell is filled with the drug lords and drug addicts who’ve perished in his war – to say nothing of all the selfish rich he’s loathed for making their millions oppressing the poor he loves.

My vote for Rodrigo Roa Duterte was a vote for him as President of the Philippines. It was not a vote for him as God. Nor a vote for him as the Evil One. I was happy when he was elected President. Finally, we had an independent-minded man from the masses of Mindanao with a heart for the poor who would wield the powers of secular government towards greater social justice. That heart, I believed, guided by the values of his mother, would lead him to success.   I cringe when he talks as if he were God and curses other people as if he were the Evil One.

I cringe, even though I have meanwhile learned he jokes a lot. Words have meaning, whether uttered in anger or in jest. I am turned off when people tell me, “Don’t listen to him, just mind what he does,” and that “P***ng Ina” in the mouth of this President is a term of endearment.

My support for President Duterte has always been premised on his declaration that he would abide by the law. That includes, from the Fundamental Law of the Land: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the law” (Art. III, Sec. 1). “One cannot build this country on the cadavers of dead Filipinos” I remember he once said.

My support for the war on drugs has been based on my hatred for the evil that the illegal drug trade brings its victims, rich and poor. As far as how this war is conducted, I have opted to allow the Commander–in-Chief the discretion to marshal the means necessary to win the war. Talking tough seemed to be necessary for the campaign, just as oft repeating that he would protect his policemen from jail should they be prosecuted in the line of duty. Targeted were not only the victims of the trade but especially its perpetrators. The latter were heavily armed and internationally organized. Where other countries had failed, we needed to succeed. We did not want to be “drug tolerant;” we wanted to be drug free.

In this light I was content to presume that lives taken by the police were taken legitimately – as the result of a police operation resisted foolishly by the drug-users.

As the number of killed rose, I was quieted by the President’s general declarations that he is not responsible for extra-judicial killings. There were, after all, many other plausible sources of the killings: turf wars among the drug pushers, rogue policemen covering their tracks, operations of the cartels to discredit legitimate police operations.

But I was scandalized by the murder of an arrested man in a jail cell by policemen, and even more scandalized by the evil of policemen planting evidence of people they would kill for pushing drugs.

Apparently, I was not the only one scandalized. The President was so scandalized he suspended the entire police operation on drugs. The dreaded “Tokhang” that had begun as a knock and a conversation, metamorphosed into a virtual death sentence, was now to be tried under suspicion of murder.

In this context, I confess I share the deep concerns of the bishops “due to many deaths and killings in the campaign against prohibited drugs” and I cringe at the co-responsibility I bear for innocent lives that may have been taken due to my silence.

With the bishops I reiterate my personal belief in basic teachings rooted in our being human, Filipino and Christian, and so transcend support for any political administration, namely:

  • “The life of every person comes from God. It is he who gives it, and it is he alone who can take it back. Not even the government has a right to kill life because it is only God’s steward and not the owner of life.
  • “The opportunity to change is never lost in every person. This is because God is merciful…
  • “To destroy one’s own life and the life of another, is a grave sin and does evil to society…
  • “Every person has a right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty…
  • “Any action that harms another (seriously) is a grave sin. To push drugs is a grave sin as is killing (except in self defense). We cannot correct a wrong by doing another wrong. A good purpose is not a justification for an evil means. It is good to remove the drug problem, nut to kill in order to achieve this is also wrong.
  • “The deep root of the drug problems and criminality is the poverty of the majority, the destruction of the family and corruption in society.
  • “We must also give priority to reforming rogue policemen and corrupt judges.
  • “To consent and keep silent in front of evil is to be an accomplice of evil.”[1]

Of course, stating this with conviction does not guarantee that I will not go to hell nor prevent the President from getting to heaven.

But for those who walk this earth together in the hope of building a better Philippine nation it is good to consider that there are forces of evil with which we must contend on this earthly journey

I believe it is better to battle evil on the side of God rather than on the side of the Evil One.

The Evil One tempts to power, pride, deceit, delusion, hubris and brings tragedy.

God leads in service, humility, truth and brings success.

This has everything to do with the war on drugs we have just suspended, the negotiating tables that have been scuttled, the war with the CPP-NPA-NDFP we have just sadly resumed, our fragile hopes for peace with the Muslims of Mindanao, our hopes for economic prosperity in a framework of social justice and environmental responsibility, our hopes for a Christian reception of Ambisyon Natin 2040. Unless we discern the straight and narrow path enlightened by God, we are doomed to bring the death penalty onto ourselves. 

Between hell for some and heaven for others, why not, for now, the negotiated common good for all on earth?


[1] CBCP Pastoral Letter, “For I find no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies – oracle of the Lord God (Ezekiel 18:32),” January 20, 2017.

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The Catholic School in the Year of the Parish

[Address: CEAP Superintendents Commission Annual Assembly, Feb 7, 2017, Punta Villa Resort, Arevalo, Iloilo.]

I would like to thank Msgr. Mike Veneracion for giving me the opportunity to share my reflections during your Mid-Year General Assembly with its theme, “Catholic Schools and Parishes: Communities of Faith, Learning and Service. “

The letter of invitation given to me stressed that we come together “aligning ourselves with the CBCP 2017 theme of the Year of the Parish as a Communion of Communities” and echoing the words of the Pastoral Exhortation, “The Church is a mystery of communion. Our communion flows from the Trinity overflowing into humanity and sharing a common faith journeying together for the full unfolding of the Kingdom of God.[1]

The letter of invitation also stated that the challenge to CEAP Superintendents is to “more deeply discern not only the structures of governance in our dioceses and parishes but also the quality of faith life in the parish, the fellowship, belongingness, and participation experienced by the members.” This is a direct quotation from the 2012 CBCP Pastoral Letter, “Live Christ, Share Christ”. Here, 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines in 2021 are celebrated in the Church’s acceptance of the challenges of New Evangelization in the Philippines. Each year of a “novena of years” running up to 2021 is marked by a special aspect of New Evangelization. We have finished, “Integral Faith Formation” the “Laity”, “the Poor,” “the Eucharist and the Family”. Next year and the following years we will do, “the Clergy and the Religious,” “the Youth,” “Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue” and finally “Missio ad Gentes” – “Mission to all Nations.” This year we do, “The Parish as a Communion of Communions.”

In this context, it may be pointed out that the challenge of discernment on “the general structures of governance in our dioceses and parishes and the quality of faith life in the parish” does not fall only on the CEAP superintendents, but on the entire Philippine Church.

IMG_5546.jpgThe Privileged BEC in a Communion of Communities

The parish is presented as “a communion of communities,” affected by trans-parochial organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Women’s League and charismatic covenanted communities, but privileging the basic ecclesial community (BEC) in their many varied manifestations. “In the Philippines our vision of the Church as communion is today finding expression in one ecclesial movement that is the movement to foster BECs” (PCP II, 39). In the logo of the “The Parish: Communion of Communities” the symbol of the BEC as communities of people with interlocked hands is central and prominent,

“Usually emerging at the grassroots,” the Pastoral Exhortation quotes from PCP II, “Basic Ecclesial Communities consciously strive to integrate their faith and their daily life. They are guided and encouraged by regular catechesis. Poverty and their faith urge their members towards solidarity with one another, action for justice, and towards a vibrant celebration of life in the liturgy.” (PCP II, 139).

In this light the Pastoral Exhortation asks, “How can we work at renewing our parish communities so that they can better respond to the challenge of restoring all this in Christ?” It suggests that the renewal called for by our Lady of Fatima in prayer and fasting and in living the Eucharist be taken seriously. The latter is described profoundly:

“The Eucharist is the poverty of Jesus disturbing the complacency of the wealthy; it is the wealthy sacrificing house, family, and fortune to lift up the poor from their poverty. It is the Word of God inviting the confused, the lonely, the bored, the suffering to the joy of the Gospel. It is God’s life humanized in his incarnation; it is human life divinized in his suffering, death and resurrection. It is the compassion of the Father touching the life of the sinner; the conversion of the sinner practicing the compassion of the Savior.” The Eucharist is “Living Christ” and “Sharing Christ.”

Msgr. Mike suggests that our prism of reflection on the parish be “communities that engender faith, learning and service.” I suppose this means we can reflect on the parish, the BECs, the presbyterate led by the bishop, communities of consecrated life led by their superiors, transparochial organizations led by their officers, and Catholic schools led by their principals or presidents as “communities that engender faith, learning and service.” Since I have only been given half an hour, I will confine my reflections to the parish, the BEC and the Catholic school. 

The Quality of Communion in the Parish: A Profound Challenge

The first question: In this year of the Parish as a communio of communities, what is the state of the parish? Is the gift and mystery of communio alive and vibrant in the parish? This is the question that the CBCP asks in the year of the parish. “Our communion flows from the Trinity overflowing into humanity and sharing a common faith journeying together for the full unfolding of the Kingdom of God.” The prime analogue and source of the parish communion is the communion itself between the divine persons of the Blessed Trinity, the perfect reciprocal Love between the Father and the Son that overflows through the incarnation into sinful humanity effecting redemption.  That is perfect communion in perfect love.

How does the parish engender faith, learning and service?   And how might we improve it?

In the Philippine parish, the faith of the community is generally given, nurtured over many generations of believers. How is this faith nurtured today in the parish, or is it roundly taken for granted? How do believers in parishes move beyond a childish faith to a more mature adult faith? How does it mature? How do diversity of religions and secularism in our societies impact on the faith in parishes? Does the preaching in the parish help in nurturing the faith or hinder it? Are there opportunities for the parishioner for growth in religious education or even in theological reflection? How does this faith shape the quality of the relationship of the individual and various communities with God? What is the quality of the communal worship? What is the quality of individual prayer? How is a spirituality appropriate for our times nurtured and supported among the members of the parish? How is a member of the parish led to do what all human beings are ultimately created for: to serve God? What metrics might we use to evaluate the vertical relation between the people of God and their God?

Second, what is the quality of horizontal relationships between the people within the parish? How does the parish priest deal with his parishioners, first, with those in the center, and second with those on the periphery? How do the people deal with the parish priest and with one another? How does the parish priest learn more about his people, the life dynamics of those who are deeply involved in the parish, and of those who are marginalized, unnoticed, excluded, discriminated against? How do people learn more about how others in the parish are faring? How is human interaction, even love, based on an experience of God’s love fostered in the parish? How are friendships formed in the parish? Are there communities of friends in the Lord who pray together, celebrate life together, and serve the community together? Based on love, how does an engagement for social justice become an imperative?

Third, where people are said to be journeying together in the parish for a full-unfolding of the Kingdom of God, what precisely does “journeying together” mean? It’s easy to talk about this. But does walking together mean breaking the anonymity and namelessness and social class barriers of many parish communities? Does this mean walking together towards the same goal? Supporting one another on the journey? Sacrificing one’s interests or even one’s life for the sake of togetherness? Even more challenging, what does “Kingdom of God” mean? How does it unfold fully? If Kingdom of God is not just a pie in the sky and an escape from the responsibilities for shaping this world, how does it relate to the call in love for social justice and the call in social justice for the common good? What are the structures in the parish that allow these to be discussed and discerned? For those in the parish journeying together, whatm is the price one is willing to pay for the Kingdom of God?

One might ask: Is there anything like the PCSS, a quality assurance culture for parishes? What are the quality standards for Catholic parishes?

The Basic Ecclesial Community in the Parish: Work in Progress

Would a quality standard be that there be a rich BEC life? That would seem to be the effect of the stress placed by the CBCP on the BEC in the year of the Parish. BECs “are groups of Christians who, at the level of the family or in a similarly restricted setting, come together for prayer, Scripture reading, catechesis and discussion on human and ecclesial problems with a view to a common commitment.”[2] Where parishes often cover great territories and are charged with the pastoral care of thousands of families, BECs have been a way of sharing pastoral responsibility with lay leaders. Whether through chapel communities or neighborhood communities, the BECs bring people together regularly around the Word of God to pray over its message and discern its meaning for service in their communities. Here a special “integration between faith and daily life is achieved. In my personal experience this has at times meant the BECs keeping a neighborhood clean, at other times it has meant BECs lobbying in Congress to protect the urban poor from unjust demolitions and to provide housing for those in need of shelter. In some BECs, because of the shared responsibility, the participation of the lay leaders in the life of the parish community is empowered, allowing the lay leaders to play key roles in the pastoral care of the people “side by side” with the parish priest or even with the bishop. They address catechetical needs, needs of worship in the absence of a priest, needs of livelihood within an economy unkind to the poor.

In other cases, the BECs are efficient ways through which the pastoral discretion of the parish priest and his coadjutors is efficiently implemented. The role that BECs play in the parishes and dioceses of the Philippines is therefore uneven and even undefined by canon law. Much depends on the pastoral policies of the arch/diocese and even on the individual attitude of the parish priest towards the BEC, and on how pastoral power and ecclesial treasure is distributed. In a diocese of Mindanao, for instance, the bishop has directed that the parishes get involved in the efforts of the diocese in the rehabilitation of drug dependents. But whether the pastoral directive is implemented on the level of the GKKs is in fact up to the discretion of the parish priest; he can apply his pastoral influence to implement the order, or he can ignore it. In this context, even the educated members of the GKK wait for the directives of the parish priest before moving even on a project like getting involved in community rehabilitation for drug dependents urged by the bishop. One wonders whether this is the way the BECs are supposed to function. Or, in an age where the Church is mandated to get involved in New Evangelization, do we not want to find strong lay participation not only in parish renewal but in bringing the benefits of new evangelization beyond the parish – to the work places beyond the parishes, to the community service organizations, to academe and to public service, to the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, to the struggles today for the welfare of the farmers, the improvement of the plight of the laborers, to the upliftment of the living conditions of the urban poor, to the struggle for the preservation of our common home?

Where the Church is journeying towards the best possible realization of the Kingdom of God – where all human beings flourish in the joy of the Gospel together – the parish and the GKKs, it seems to me, cannot be turned in on themselves. Looking again at the logo of the parish, the centrality of the Word of God and the challenge of the Eucharist are not only for the parish but for the parish in the world, the Cross on which Christ died spans not only the parish but the wide society which the parish itself is missioned to evangelize and transform; on the Cross therefore are not only the ideally functioning BECs whose members interlock arms congenially, but the spiritual cynics, the aggressive secularists, the dysfunctional families of today, the sorry individuals defeated by competition or broken by substance abuse, the profit-hungry companies and corporations, the legislators motivated by self-preservation and purely partisan interest, the government officials tainted by corruption, and reformist leaders marked tragically by self-destructive hubris. Many of these belong to our parish communities, but their “belonging” is ambiguous, even merely conceptual, like the idea of a parish “communion of communities” that mirrors the communion of the Trinity.

Where is the Catholic School vis-a-vis the Parish?

So in all of this, in the communion of communities that is supposedly the parish seriously marked by limitations, dysfunctionalities and sin, where is the Catholic school? Where is the Catholic school in the parish? Where is the parish in the Catholic school? Both are “Communities of Faith, Learning and Service“ as are the various models of the BECs. Are the BECs to be addressed in Catholic schools? But if addressed in Catholic schools, which model of BEC? The BECs which empowers the lay Christians supported by the parish priest, or the BECs which empower the parish priest through the obedient support of the BEC?.   Is the concept of the parish as presented in the Pastoral Exhortation the concept that is to be taught in our schools?

That, I am afraid, is not for me to answer within the 30 minutes that have been allocated to me. That shall rather be a subject of this assembly of CEAP superintendents. Allow me, however, the following brief reflections.

The relationship of the parish communion to the Catholic school is largely undefined. The Catholic school is not specified in the logo of the parish. The Catholic school is not a requirement for the parish. The local parish is not necessarily a concern of a particular Catholic school. In the Philippine Catholic School Standards, the third and fourth defining characteristic of Catholic schools do not mention the parish. The school communion “actively engages parents and their families, alumni, other educational institutions and agencies, civil authorities and other sectors of society;” it does not include the parish. Furthermore, the ecclesial recognition and supervision of many Catholic schools can and do bypass the parishes.

The difference between parish schools which are supported not only morally but financially by their parish and diocesan communities and Catholic schools that are supported by the private means of their clienteles co-determines the participation of Catholic schools in the functioning of the parish and the influence of the parish in the operation of the school. The relationship of the parish to the parochial school cannot be transferred to all Catholic schools.   There are no lines of direct governance between parishes/dioceses and all Catholic schools, no one-sided entitlement of parishes to the determination of school policy. Cooperation between parishes and Catholic schools is painstakingly effected by dialogue and achieved meetings of minds and free decisions among mutually autonomous institutions to collaborate based on shared insight, shared concerns, and shared mission – when the often strong-willed leaders of these institutions care to consider what they share in their apostolic missions.

The practical concerns of the parish priest serving his parish community through leadership is all-consuming and are different from the practical concerns of the school president/principal and his/her school community that are all consuming. The parish priest is concerned with the life of his Christian community from birth to burial, its schedule of worship and devotions in the center and sub-centers of the parish, the quality of his preaching, the shepherding of the BECs and transparochial organizations, the special concerns of the parish with the urban poor, the farmers, the laborers and its program of social action, the relationship of the parish to its diocese/archdiocese. The Catholic school community is more segmented, the in-school youth from about five years to about 30 years of age. It deals with ordered technical programs of learning supervised by government. It deals with the education of its students and the ongoing formation of its faculty and staff. In the CEAP it deals with transformative education. But its leadership must bring together the financial means to sustain and improve the school operations.   In a word, the different operational concerns of the parish and the Catholic schools make their harmonization difficult. Some Catholic schools feel entitled to the support of the parish community; some parish and diocesan communities feel entitled to taxes from the schools – even when the major income of the school is government subsidy intended directly for the education of poor students.

Both the parish and the school communities are impelled by the Gospel to fight injustice in society and to work for the common good. Both the parish and their school communities are impelled by their missions to a cura personalis which mediates the love of God for each person and prepares each person for authentic discipleship in today world. The missions of both are overwhelming.

The reach of some Catholic schools transcend parochial and even diocesan boundaries. While Catholic schools normally are situated within a parish their students and teachers often come from beyond the boundaries of the parish, and even of the dioceses.

Whereas the Church will be with us till the end of time, neither the parishes nor the Catholic schools are guaranteed everlasting existence. There have been parishes that have been dissolved in the US because of dwindling Catholic populations but whose Catholic schools have survived them. Indeed, even in the Philippines as the search for parish communities that genuinely mirror the community of the Trinity progresses, parishes may need to be radically reorganized to mediate a communal experience for parishioners closer to that of the Trinity. Territorial determinations of parishes may metamorphose into creative sectoral structures.

Similarly, there have been Catholic universities that have been closed and never reopened. Today the existence of Catholic schools in the Philippines seems to be more precarious than the existence of their parishes. Many Catholic schools, especially those that are small, are more vulnerable to unfriendly market forces or hostile government policy than more robust schools. In my view, if the Catholic school in the Philippines is to survive, the idea of Catholic education, the importance of formative religious education for our youth that is integrated with their quality education as taught by Gravissimum Educationis[3] must be supported by the parish and diocesan communities and ultimately civil society.

Finally, when we say that the Catholic school “guarantees the freedom and right of families to see that their children receive the sort of education they wish for them” and refer to the Catholic school’s “mission of making Catholic education accessible and available to all youth especially those encumbered by poverty”[4] we do so only in the context of the Church community and civil society first supporting the Catholic school. They do so recognizing the primary right of parents to educate their children and provide them appropriate religious education. “Parents have the duty and right to impart a religious education and moral formation to their children, a right the State cannot annul but which it must respect and promote. This is a primary right that a family may not neglect nor delegate.”[5] If this level of religious formation cannot be provided by public education then it must be provided by Catholic education.   By itself, the Catholic school does not guarantee the right of parents to educate and form their children in religion; existing and operating, the Catholic school, however it sustains itself, is but a guarantee that the right can be exercised. To exist and operate, however, the Catholic school needs the resources to pay its teachers, build a learning environment for its students, house its classrooms, laboratories and libraries, and administer its services. It acquires the resources today not through royal nor ecclesial decrees, but either through collected tuition and fees or legislated public finance. No Catholic school is entitled to exist unless its existence is supported both by the church and the secular community. To exist and continue in existence, Catholic schools must win that support.

The Catholic School is Worth Fighting For

Without that support, Catholic schools in the Philippines will die.

Personally, I am convinced the existence of Catholic schools is worth supporting, and worth fighting for. I hope you are similarly convinced. I believe parishes and Catholic schools must choose to work together to keep each other vibrant in the service of New Evangelization.   Together with our parishes we must learn how to evangelize in plural cultures that are increasingly secularized, even as people, turned off by homilies that don’t speak to them and by jaded expressions of traditional religion, are increasingly religiously needy and desirous of depth spirituality. Together with our parishes we must learn how to evangelize, teach and empower the poor and unlettered, but also how to evangelize, teach and form the wealthy, the influential and the powerful in the collectivity of combative contentious communities that we in fact reach, so that from the power of the Gospel the needs of the excluded are truly addressed and poverty overcome. Together we must understand how to protect deeply Christian values: the sacred value of human life, the inviolability of human rights, the sacredness of the Catholic family, the sublime responsibility of caring for God’ creation, the imperative of dialogue with peoples of other faiths and cultures from the bedrock of our own faith, the compelling need for peace where peace is shattered by individuals and nations who kill in the name of God apparently to overcome unjust structures long imposed on them by western “Christian” civilization. President Duterte in Ambisyon Natin 2040 wants to eradicate poverty in one generation; do we respond that the poor will always be with us and that the Catholic Church is a church of the poor? We must learn how to share the Gospel and our church culture so that it becomes a liberating, humanizing, unifying force in our lives and not just a superstitious appendage. That means finding joy and consolation in sacrificing our self interests for our common goods and the common good of humanity.

We must learn how to do this, to render this service this in faith, fixing our gaze humbly on the Crucified yet Risen Lord who ran neither a Catholic school nor a Catholic parish but taught us the fullness of what we must learn and how we must serve.

[1] CBCP Pastoral Exhortation, “Parishes as Wellsprings of Mercy and Renewal,” 2017

[2] Cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, no 51.

[3] Declaration on Catholic Education by the Second Vatican Council promulgate 28 October 1965 by Pope Paul VI.

[4] Cf. Philippine Catholic School Standards for Education for Basic Education (Phoenix-CEAP), Defining Characteristic VII., page 11.

[5] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, par. 239.

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COCOPEA Proposed Bill on Free Private Higher Education

Proposed legislation on Free Private Higher Education submitted by COCOPEA to legislators through Sen. Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV on 23 January 2017.  Please see “COCOPEA to Sen. Bam Aquino on Free Private Higher Education

First Regular Session

S.B. No. _____

Introduced by Senator ____


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

SECTION 1. Short Title. – This Act shall be known as the “Free Private Higher Education Act of 2017.

SECTION 2. Declaration of Policy. –The State shall establish, maintain, and support a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education for all on all levels relevant to the needs of the people and society where public and private higher education institutions operate in complementarity. Higher Education as a major force for social and economic transformation, must be made accessible to the qualified and deserving students; and integrated across varying missions of educational institutions in both public and private sectors. This Act, complementing the Free Higher Education Act for Students in State Universities and Colleges, shall aim to:

1) Stimulate the social and cultural transformation of the society in line with the national development plan and Ambisyon Natin 2040;

2) Accelerate innovation and inclusive economic prosperity; and

3) Support the private education sector in the complementary role it plays relative to SUCs in providing higher education for all in the Philippines.

Therefore, in line with the State’s constitutionally mandated duty to make quality education accessible to all and as its top budgetary priority, free higher education is hereby mandated for higher educational programs, both in public and private HEIS for qualified but economically marginalized students, that directly implement the foregoing aims.

SECTION 3. Higher Education Voucher System (HEVS)– There shall be a higher education voucher system for qualified students under this  Free Private Higher Education Act. The Higher Education Voucher (HEV) shall entitle the holder to free higher education plus support for educational costs and living allowances in any participating Private Higher Education Institution (PHEI).

SECTION 4. Definition of Terms. – As used un this Act, these terms shall mean:

  • Cost of Higher Education refers to (1) tuition, and other School Fees, (2) Educational Expenses, and (3) the cost of living allowance;
  • Educational Expenses refer to expenses related to the education of a student, such as books, school supplies, and electronic devices necessary for education, but excluding tuition and miscellaneous and Other School Fees;
  • Higher Education refers to the stage of formal education, or its equivalent, requiring completion of secondary education and covering programs of study leading to bachelor and advanced degrees;
  • Higher Education Institution (HEI) refers to an institution of higher learning, primarily offering bachelor and advanced degree programs;
  • Other School Fees refer to those fees which cover other necessary costs supportive of instruction, including, but not limited to, medical and dental, athletic, library, laboratory, and miscellaneous fees;
  • State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) refer to public HEIs established by national laws which are financed and maintained by the national government, and are governed by their respective independent boards of trustees or regents;
  • Technical-Vocational Education and Training (TVET) refers to the post-secondary education or training process which involves, in addition to general education, the study of technical and related fields and the acquisition of practical skills relating to occupations in various sectors, comprising formal (organized programs as part of the school systems) and nonformal (organized classes outside the school system) approaches;
  • Technical-Vocational Institutes (TVIs) refer to learning institutions offering post-secondary TVET
  • Tertiary Education refers to the stage of education following the secondary cycle which subsumes post-secondary nondegree diploma, TVET, and Higher Education programs; and
  • Tuition Fee refers to the fee representing direct costs of instruction, training and other related activities and for the students’ use of the instruction and training facilities;
  • Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) refers to the harmonized, state-run and administered system of Higher Education and technical-vocational Scholarships, Grants-in-Aid, Student Loans, and other modalities of StuFAP created by Republic Act No 10867;
  • Student Financial Assistance Program (StuFAP) refers to a system of Scholarships, Grants-in-Aid, Student Loans, subsidies and other incentives which are or shall be made available to eligible students;
  • Grant-in-Aid refers to a modality of financial assistance to poor but eligible students which generally requires a minimum level of competence to complete Tertiary Education;
  • Scholarship refers to a modality of financial assistance given to eligible students on the basis of merit and/or talent, such as laudable academic performance, and special technical proficiencies and skills and intellectual pursuits of a Scholar that give rise to research and development, and innovations as well as other creative works;
  • Student Loan refers to a modality of student financial assistance consisting of short-term or long-term loans which shall be extended to students facing liquidity problems, regardless of economic status, which shall be paid by the student, his/her parents, guardians, or co-makers;

SECTION 5. Implementing Agency. The Unifast Board shall be the lead agency tasked, in consultation with multi-sectoral representatives which includes the academe and industry, to:

  • Identify the private higher educational programs that will be covered by this Act;
  • Provide the guidelines in the selection and recognition of participating PHEIs to implement the HEVs and ensure equal opportunity and access of the participating educational institutions thereto;
  • Provide the guidelines or criteria for qualified but needy students to receive free higher education vouchers;
  • Administer the Free Private Higher Education Voucher System; and
  • To manage the Free Private Higher Education Fund.

SECTION 6. Free Private Higher Education Fund. – The Free Private Higher Education Fund, hereinafter referred to as the Fund, is hereby established. The Fund shall be used solely for the purpose of implementing the PHEVS under the provisions of this Act.

SECTION 7. Free Private Higher Education Voucher Value– A multi-agency body composed of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), Coordinating Council of Private Education Associations (COOPEA), and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) shall be tasked to determine the FPHEV values and the PHEV slots across the regions based on a set of criteria which shall include, among others:

  • tuition charged by the participating PHEIs;
  • the quality level of the PHEI based on its culture of quality assurance;
  • the manpower requirements of the national development plan and Ambisyon Natin 2040;
  • the socioeconomic needs of each region,
  • the academic qualifications and the financial needs of the students,
  • the financial needs of the PHEIs, and
  • the geographic spread and size of student population.

The PHEV values shall be subject to change upon periodic review of the body and after due consultation.

SECTION 8. Exclusion from Gross Income of PHEIs – The PHEV grants used solely, directly, and exclusively for education purposes shall be excluded from the gross income of PHEIs and shall not be taxed or subject to any imposition.

SECTION 9. Coverage of Subsidy. The amount of subsidy through the PHEV shall cover the full cost of education. No other collections shall be required of the students.

SECTION 10. Other restrictions. The grants under FPHEVS received by the participating PHEI shall be used solely, directly, and exclusively for education purposes. No part of the grant shall inure to the personal benefit of any officer, director, member of the board, and/or administrator of the participating institutions.

Section 11. Reportorial requirements. Subject to the rules of the Unifast Board, each participating institution is mandated to submit an annual report on the status of the grantees, and the allocation and/or utilization of grants received under this Act.

SECTION 12. Appropriations. – The amount of Twenty Billion Pesos (P20,000,000,000) is hereby initially appropriated from the Presidential Social Fund to implement the provision of this Act. Thereafter, such amount necessary to effectively carry out the provisions of this Act shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.

SECTION. 13. Implementing Rules and Regulations. – Within sixty (60) days from the effectivity of this Act, the PEAC-FAPE shall promulgate the implementing rules and regulations necessary for the implementation of this Act.

SECTION. 14. Separability Clause. – Should any provision herein be declared unconstitutional, the same shall not affect the validity of the other provisions of this Act.

SECTION. 15. Repealing Clause. – All laws, decrees, orders, rules and regulations, or other issuances or parts inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed or modified accordingly.

SECTION. 16. Effectivity Clause. – This Act shall take effect fifteen (15) days after its publication in the Official Gazette or in two (2) newspapers of general circulation in the Philippines.


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COCOPEA to Sen. Bam Aquino on Free Private Higher Education

22 January 2017.

Hon. Paulo Benigno Aquino IV
Senate Committee on Education, Culture and the Arts
Senate of the Philippines

Dear Senator Aquino:

In the context of the discussion of your draft legislation on free tuition in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) and the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) have come together twice.  In their last meeting at the Ateneo de Davao University from Jan. 12-13, both associations jointly issue the resolutions I am happy to share with you today [Resolutions of PASUC and COCOPEA].

Resolution 4 and 8 are historic resolutions.  They articulate the resolve of both associations to “work together in complementarity to improve the quality of higher education in both public and private HEIs” and their commitment in self-governance “to a shared mission of providing quality higher education to the Filipino People.”

Resolutions 1 to 3 emerged out of both associations’ concern that the Philippine System of Education provide not only access to higher education but access to quality higher education, and that both public and private HEIs be involved in this provision.

Resolution 1.  That the Philippine System of Education provide access to quality higher education to all qualified Filipino students.  

While higher education must in principle be accessible to all, in fact Filipinos must be properly prepared for higher education and able to meet its requirements.  This is an urgent issue of quality.

Resolution 2.  That government scholarships be provided in quality higher education institutions, both public and private.   

That scholarships (or government assistance or free tuition) be provided in quality HEIs, both public and private.  At issue is not only access to higher education but access to quality higher education.  Where conditions of quality (appropriate classrooms, libraries, laboratories, etc.) suffer in HEIs due to lack of funding, these must be met as a condition to their receiving government-funded scholars.  Otherwise precious funds are squandered and lives of scholars compromised.  From the very beginning the resources of both quality public and private should be tapped towards providing universal access to private higher education.

Resolution 3.  That qualified Filipino students able to pay for their higher education pay for it; that qualified Filipino students unable to pay for their higher education be fully supported in their higher education by government through scholarships and allowances as needed, especially in programs or courses consistent with the National Development Plan and contributory to the realization of Ambisyon Natin 2040.  

That Philippine Education System, heeding the constitutional mandate to provide universal access to education on all levels for all, on the higher educational level respect the ability of many to pay for their own higher education as their socio-economic conditions may allow or as their basic education may have empowered them to, especially if assisted by loans.  Therefore, this resolution, “That qualified Filipino students able to pay for their higher education pay for it.”  Precious government educational resources needed to improve the quality of higher education in the Philippines should not be wasted on students able to pay for their own education.  However, qualified Filipino students unable to pay for their higher education should be fully supported by government through free tuition, educational expenses, allowances, etc. as required, in SUCs and private HEIs of documented quality.  Priority should be placed on courses identified as consistent with the NDP.

These resolutions considered, it is respectfully submitted that:


On your invitation we have drafted the latter and submit it respectfully to you for your sponsorship and support.  


That Sec. 1. State:  “This Act shall be knows as the “Free Higher Education Act for SUCs.”  This is consistent with its fuller title and resonant with the bill providing for free higher education in private HEIs.

That Sec 4, “Exceptions to the Full Tuition subsidy: include among those ineligible:

  • Must not be capable of paying for higher education
  • Must not be a foreign student

That Sec 6 on Administration of the Fund be amended as follows:

The Fund shall be administered by the Commission on Higher education, in consultation with PASUC and COCOPEA, shall have the following powers…

Under Sec 7.  Requirements for SUCS. Add the following:

That the SUCs apply for availment of the fund in academic freedom and responsibility declaring its level of quality preparedness.

In the PASUC-COCOPEA discussion, the SUCs were fearing that the Free Tuition Act would swell their studentries beyond quality capacity, especially where quality is already suffering because of lack of budgetary support for their desires to improve quality.  The SUCs already need more funding to provide quality higher education to the student populations they already serve.  This funding essential for minimum quality should be attended to before swelling their student ranks with new students.

Respectfully in Our Lord,

Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J.


Appendix to Letter, COCOPEA to Sen. Aquino
of January 22, 2017

COCOPEA Internal Brief Re Free Tuition Bill
Objectives for any tuition-support (aka Free Tuition) policy:

  • quality must not be compromised
  • complementarity between public and private, as enshrined in the constitution, must not be weakened
  • students must have full diversity of choice of institutions and degrees in their access to higher education
  • the growth of total enrollment in higher education should be a policy target (since this is correlated with improved economies)
  • Academic freedom, as enshrined in the Constitution, must continue to be respected.

Private Higher Education

  • Private higher education serves the majority — at approximately 55% — of the 4,104,841 higher education students enrolled in colleges and universities across the country.  Approximately 2,219,857 students study at private HEIs.
  • Private higher education contains most of the top universities and colleges in the Philippines, and exclusively occupies 100% of the list of autonomous and deregulated institutions as identified by the CHEd. It contains the oldest institutions in the Philippines. Private universities and colleges reflect the broad diversity of educational missions, reflected in the missions of religious and non-sectarian institutions.
  • Private higher education employs over 114,000 full-time and part-time faculty and non-teaching employees, and reflects the single largest pool of professionals with advanced degrees in the country.
  • COCOPEA is composed of five national educational associations, and has been the “unifying voice of private education” in the country since 1961.  The five associations are the Catholic Educational Association (CEAP), the Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities (ASCU), the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU), the Philippine Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAPSCU) and the Technical Vocational Schools Association (TVSA).
  • COCOPEA numbers 1,920 educational and learning institutions among its member institutions (excluding tech-voc), with an employment base of roughly 146,938 (67,380 in higher ed), servicing a combined enrollment of 2,401,272 students (1,096,303 in higher education).
  • Clearly, the role of the private sector in providing higher education is as important, if not more important than that of the public sector.  Given this, any legislation or educational policy must balance the health of both the public and private sectors, to avoid the “unintended consequences” that can occur toward quality, complementarity, student choice, private sector employment and institutional survival..

Our Comments on the Free Tuition Bill: the Unintended Consequences We Wish to Avoid

  • Unintended consequence: funding poor-quality institutions.  A policy that rewards all SUCs regardless of their institutional performance does not reward quality.
  • Unintended consequence: enrollment movement toward SUCs, away from private schools.  COCOPEA supports market competition (with reasonable regulation) as the key driver to improving higher education and a main factor for balancing complementarity.  If the main reason students shift to the public away from the private is an artificially introduced lower price, then this goes against such concepts, and damage complementarity.  A free tuition policy, all things equal, will attract more students into SUCs compared to private schools..  This is not just wishful thinking.  This has been the position of educational experts, such as the CHEd, the PIDS, and through our discussions with SUC university presidents.  This was also the experience of secondary education over the past 20 years, which saw a drop in the participation of the private sector, from 40% in 1985-86 (before the 1987 Constitution that mandated free basic education) to 9% in 2011-12.
  • Unintended consequence: chasing enrollment in SUCs to the detriment of quality.  The increase in students, if unmonitored will be problematic for SUCs, as they unlikely not have the resources to handle the increase.  More specifically, what happens if more students enroll than forecasted and budgeted, a likely scenario?  The way to safeguard against a reduction in quality in such situations is through a strict strict enrollment cap or ceiling for each institution, thus maintaining the resource allocation levels per student, based on their budgets and forecasts.  To this end, the consolidated bill makes an effort to limit the temptation of SUCs to just accept more students, but it has loopholes.  We ask the body to strengthen these provisions to mitigate unintended consequences for the sector, and can suggest language if requested.
  • Unintended consequence: damage to the private sector, and inefficient investments.  As the secondary education experience suggests, such a student exodus means a negative economic impact to the private sector, in terms of employment and investments in education.  We do not want to see empty classrooms and in the private schools, accompanied by expansion in SUCs for the same investments, nearby. This would be an inefficient use of resources from a national standpoint, and a reasons why the government decided on vouchers for SHS.
  • Unintended consequences: reduced access by the poor.  We will not repeat the concerns voiced by PIDS educational economists and CHEd here, and their advocacy for a more focused targeting toward the poorer students.  We do note, however, the estimate of PIDS that approximately 220,000 more “poor” students can benefit from a more focused targeting (a 67% increase from the current comparable population).  The potential exclusion of this group is a concern that the bill should address.  Additionally, we do want to raise a concern over the data provided by SUCs in determining the income profile of their students, which in turn may influence the interpretations on the bill with regard to being pro-poor. We have examined a sample instrument from Ifugao State and have seen it is a single-question self-reported student assessment of income, with a narrow range of income options.  This means, among others, a likely underreporting of income (a research bias in self-reporting income) among others.  We suggest looking the data provided by the Philippine Statistical Agency (PSA) through its Annual Poverty Indicator Survey (APIS), which also includes more detailed and validated questions on household income and attendance in public or private institutions.
  • Unintended consequence: Inconsistency with international experience.  We have argued how this policy will reduce the role of the private sector in higher education.  Yet globally, private institutions are growing faster than public institutions and gaining share.  Private education enrollment growth rates are higher in East Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, Southeast Asia, the US and France, among others.  It is not difficult to see why such trends exist: the private sector has several traits to complement public sector provision, including being typically more attuned to industry needs than the public sector (85% vs 60% employment rates are estimated)
  • Unintended consequence: a bias against the student enrolled in private education.  We do not see the argument why a student in a private institution cannot avail of the same benefits as a student in a state college.  This is not a case of a “rich family” choosing a private school. This is a case of a hardworking family making a choice on how to educate its kids, and saving its money to send its child to a private institution. Yet he or she is penalized (in terms of foregone Tuition support) depending on the kind of institution he or she selects.  In the end, the contributions to the economy of a private college graduate versus a public college graduate are the same at the very least. It is in the national interest to support both equally.

Our proposals
We have proposed an alternative bill, that, among others: (1) focuses on/prioritizes the poor; and (2) provides a voucher, wherein the student has free choice in his or her selection of institution, whether public or private.

On these points, we note that we are simply replicating funding models that exist in the Philippines:  ESC for junior high school, the SHS voucher for SHS, and Philhealth (wherein the amount a person is eligible to receive from Philhealth has the same economic effect as a voucher).

We hope our proposed alternative bill will be given consideration.

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Creative Disruption in Philippine Higher Education


[Address to the Educational Forum of the Philippine Association of Schools Colleges and Universities on “K-12 and Creative Disruption”, Club Filipino, 19 January 2017.]

“Quality, accessible, and liberating basic education for all” as promised by DepEd under the leadership of Sec. Leonor Briones, leads either to productive employment in the labor mainstream or to higher education. My contribution to this educational forum as chair of the Coordinating Council of Philippine Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) and that of Dr. Ricardo Rotoras, representing the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC), is designed to illustrate how public and private higher education in the country “in a season of creative disruption” is now coming together to claim shared responsibility for higher education in the Philippine Educational System, where in the past it allowed its responsibility to be exercised by government. In the same “season of creative disruption,” public and private education in the country is organizing itself to take responsibility for the complementary roles of public and private HEIs for higher education in the country (cf. Art. 14. Sec 4 [1]), where in the past no one took responsibility for this complementarity.

The claim for this shared responsibility for higher education in the Philippines is based no less than on the 1987 Constitution which vests academic freedom in higher education institutions, not in a government body like the Commission on Higher Education. “Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning” the Constitution says (Art. XIV, Sec 5[2]). Indeed the law which creates the CHED, RA 7722, explicitly states: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as limiting the academic freedom of universities and colleges.”[1] As is well known, academic freedom includes the freedom and responsibility to determine “who is to teach, what is to be taught, how it is to be taught, who can be admitted to study.”[2]

It was the Senate hearing on free tuition for SUCs proposed by Sen. Bam Aquino last October 26, 2016 that initially brought PASUC and COCOPEA together through its President and Chair respectively. The main associations of public SUCS and private HEIs, along with many others including the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), were registering objections to the proposed free tuition for SUCs.   On this occasion, Pres. Ric Rotoras submitted to the Senate committee the paper, “Re-Defining the Role of State Universities and Colleges in the Philippine Higher Education System,” which proposed a “Policy Framework on the Complementary Roles of SUCs and Private HEIs in the Philippines.” Where in the past SUCs and private HEIs operated in separate worlds, the framework included exciting ideas such as: “The government provides full funding requirements to SUCs with [the] clear mandate of providing quality education to the marginalized sectors and offering differentiated programs that complement [those of] private HEIs.” Then, “Private HEIs shall serve the greater mass of the higher education market; ensure sustainability and growth.” Then, “A level playing field between private and public HEIs is defined in terms of differentiate markets and curricular programs.” Finally, “Regulations of SUCs are defined by their respective charters, while regulations of the private HEIs are defined by the State through the Commission on Higher Education.”

Where the COCOPEA Mission affirms “the essential complementarity between public and private education” and the COCOPEA Roadmap for private Higher Education undertook to advance, promote and protect the essential complementarity between public and private education (pg 8), now the President of the major organization of the public SUCs was proposing a framework of complementarity in which certain terms screamed for reflection and discussion; SUCs for the marginalized.   SUCs for quality education for the marginalized… Private HEIs to serve the greater mass of the higher education market… A level playing field… Differentiate markets and curricular program… Regulations vs Academic freedom. With Commissioner Popoy de Vera and Bam Aquino expressing support, Pres. Ric Rotoras and I agreed that our organizations had to come together. We needed to discuss our respective complementary roles in the Philippine Educational System.


The historic first round of PASUC-COCOPEA Conversations took place in Manila in the Century Park Hotel on Nov. 22 despite a crowded calendar when many Presidents of the SUCs were concerned about defending their budgets and COCOPEA was preparing for its Board Meeting and Christmas Party. But representatives of both organizations came together anyway to break the ice, get to know one another, and get their feet wet discussing complementary positions. Already at that meeting they appreciated how free tuition for higher education must support not only access but quality, how quality is improved not by increasing access thoughtlessly but by improving instruction and facilities. They began talking about how public and private schools might play complementary roles in segmented markets, about how scholarships can go not only to quality public schools but also to quality private schools. They touched on the ideal higher educational atmosphere for all higher educational institutions and on how higher academic education must be complemented by higher technical education. The first round ended after three hours but with a firm resolution to gather for a more substantial meeting at the Ateneo de Davao. That meeting took place last week, 12-13 January.


IMG_0720.JPGPresident Rodrigo Duterte did not come to the meeting on Jan 13 as had been hoped. He was entertaining Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Sen. Bam Aquino and Commissioner Popoy Rivera could not come either. But ADDUs Finster Auditorium was specially prepared to host the conversations and to welcome the 60 participants and special resources persons including former CHED Commissioner Cynthia Bautista, Chita Pijano of PAASCU and Doris Ferrer of PEAC. What unfolded was a historic event in Philippine higher education: a substantial meeting of representative of public and private higher education convening themselves in shared complementary concern for Philippine Higher Education. PASUC was represented by 29 Presidents of SUCS from Ilocos to Sulu, and the five associations of COCOPEA were represented by 27 delegates. Still guided by the points raised by Dr. Rotoras in his paper, the conversations were open and honest, participants from each side discovering the concerns, hopes and frustrations of their counterpart educators in higher education were similar to theirs. Exchanges both during the formal conversation and during the meals and reception enriched by the Tausug dances presented by the Ateneo Sidlak dance troupe were warm and friendly.   For lack of time, I am unable to present you with the full account of the rich discussions. Instead, in the spirit of this forum’s “season of creative disruption,” allow me to present to you the ten substantial resolutions of the 2nd round of PASUC-COCOPEA Conversations.


Acting jointly, the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) and the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) resolved as follows:

Resolution 1:

That the Philippine System of Education provide access to quality higher education to all qualified Filipino students.

Against the recent background of legislation providing special funds for free tuition in SUCs, subsequently partially vetoed by the President to assert that students had to be qualified for higher education, PASUC-COCOPEA was stressing that universal access to Philippine higher education was for all qualified Filipino students.

Resolution 2:

That government scholarships be provided in quality higher education institutions, both public and private.  

Against the backdrop of Resolution 1, PASUC-COCOPEA was stressing that government scholarships and assistance provide not just access to higher education, but access to quality higher education both in quality SUCS and in quality private HEIs. It was stressing not just access to higher education, but access to quality higher education, and that public and private HEIs complement each other in providing the Filipino people this quality higher education.

Resolution 3:

That qualified Filipino students able to pay for their higher education pay for it; that qualified Filipino students unable to pay for their higher education be fully supported in their higher education by government through scholarships and allowances as needed, especially in programs or courses consistent with the National Development Plan and contributory to the realization of Ambisyon Natin 2040.

Against the position of “free tuition for all” which would have subsidized higher education for those who can pay for it themselves and increased access to SUCs already deprived of vital funds to provide quality education in their institutions without providing for the quality improvement of the SUCs, PASUC-COCOPEA position was that those who could pay for their education pay for it. Precious funds for education should not be squandered on the popularity of politicians. On the other hand, as a consequence of universal accessibility, those who could not pay for education be supported wholly, not only though free tuition but through living allowances that really enable the studies of those serious about higher education. Prioritized would be assistance for programs or courses consistent with National Development Plans.

Resolution 4:

That the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) and the Coordinating Council of State Colleges and Universities (COCOPEA), representing segments of public and private education respectively, shall work together in complementarity to improve the quality of higher education in both public and private HEIs.

This is a historic resolution. It is the resolve of the major organization of public HEIs and the major organization of private HEIs to work together in complementarity to improve the quality of higher education in both public and private HEIs. Where the earlier resolutions were to provide universal access to quality higher education for qualified students, PASUC and COCOPEA were owning complementary responsibility for the ongoing improvement of quality higher education.

Resolution 5:

That a committee jointly constituted by PASUC and COCOPEA draft legislation to create innovation centers in each region; the centers shall bring together resources of public and private HEIs, industry and agriculture in the regions to foster and promote innovation in industry and agriculture and appropriate regional niching, strengthening human resource development for this purpose and providing incentives for private support.

The creation of innovations centers in each region through collaboration of PASUC and COCOPEA would be an example of shared higher education collaboration in an important project for the development of the nation.

Resolution 6:

That PASUC and COCOPEA shall jointly propose to the Department of Education that the SUCs be relieved of their role in the provision of Senior High School under the K-12 Program considering the readiness of the Department of Education to fulfill this responsibility in collaboration with the private sector.

Providing SHS basic education does not belong to the original mandate of the SUCs. It was accepted by the SUCs as an emergency measure where a shortfall in SHS provision by the DepED complemented by the private sector was expected. However, SHS in the SUCs eat away at scarce resources of the SUCs originally meant for higher education. Considering the robust SHS provision of the DepEd and that many private sector SHS providers did not reach their expected targets, this is a PASUC-COCOPEA resolution relieve the SUCs of this responsibility and to transfer it to DepEd or private SHS providers.

Resolution 7:

That PASUC and COCOPEA jointly commits itself to the culture of quality assurance guided by the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network and its ASEAN Quality Reference Framework and request the Philippine government for necessary funds to support this commitment.

Essential in higher education for the ongoing improvement of higher education is the culture quality assurance. Whereas PASUC and COCOPEA confirm that quality assurance is best practiced today through the various accreditation agencies recognized by FAAP, they jointly commit themselves to the culture of quality guided by the AQAN and its AQRF. The international ASEAN quality assurance culture would guide the quality recognition and ongoing improvement of Philippine HEIs, both public and private. Unto this end, both PASUC and COCOPEA request funding from government to support this commitment to ongoing quality recognition and improvement.

Resolution 8:

That PASUC and COCOPEA jointly commits itself in academic freedom and responsibility to its shared mission of providing quality higher education to the Filipino people and to find the appropriate structures to support and govern itself under the reasonable regulation of government as higher education in the Philippines.

Another historic resolution complementary to Resolution 4. This is a resolution in academic freedom towards the self-governance of HEIs in the Philippines, even as the reasonable regulation of government is recognized.

Resolution 9:

That PASUC and COCOPEA shall jointly invite leaders of Local Colleges and Universities (LCUs) to collaborate with it in this shared mission.

Recognizing that LCUs also provide public higher education in the Philippines, their collaboration would be invited.

Resolution 10:

That the President of PASUC and the chair of COCOPEA shall seek an audience with Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for the specific purpose of presenting and explaining these resolutions approved jointly by PASUC and COCOPEA during the “2nd Round of PASUC-COCOPEA Conversations on Complementarity between Public and Private HEIs” held at Finster Auditorium, Finster Hall of the Ateneo de Davao University on 12-13 January 2017.

We have already written the President for an appointment.

In a season of confusion, disorganization and alleged corruption in the management of higher education in the Philippines, we may be happy that PASUC and COCOPEA are jointly exercising “creative disruption” in organizing itself to take responsibility for higher education in the Philippines and in contributing through higher education to the 10-point economic agenda of government and the broader humane goals of Ambisyon Natin 2040.


[1] Art. 13. The article further specifies, “In particular, no abridgment of curricular freedom of the individual educational institutions by the Commission shall be made except for (a) minimum unit requirements for specific academic programs; (b) general education distribution requirements as may be determined by the Commission; and (c) specific professional subjects as may be stipulated by the various licensing entities”

[2] Cf: ADMU vs. Capulong, GR 99327, May 27, 1933. This case cites the essential freedoms subsumed under the term ‘academic freedom’ originally by Justice Felix Frankfurter in Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234 (1957).

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