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Duterte OKs free tuition in SUCs

BY: Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos, Hannah L. Torregoza, Vanne Elaine P. Terrazola, Ben R. Rosario, and Reuters

President Duterte has signed into law a bill granting tuition-free education in all State Colleges and Universities, a Cabinet official said yesterday, setting aside the advice of his economic managers to reject the measure.

The President believed the benefits of Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act outweighed the potential short-term budgetary challenges, Menardo Guevarra, senior deputy executive secretary, said.

“Free tertiary education in SUCs is a very strong pillar or cornerstone of the President’s social development policy,” Guevarra said.

“The enrolled bill came to the Office of the President nearly 30 days ago and during that period, there had been a lot of discussions and study about the bill because of its a heavy budgetary implication,” he added.

“So we weighed everything and came to the conclusion that the long-term benefits that will be derived from a well-developed tertiary education on the part of the citizenry will definitely outweigh any short-term budgetary challenges,” Guevarra said.

Duterte’s economic managers have said the government would not be able to afford the cost of free tuition, estimated at R100 billion ($2 billion) a year.

They also said tuition-free education at SUCs would not benefit the poor because only 12 percent of students in SUCs belong to low-income families.

The Palace official also said economic managers would now have to find the budgetary allocation whether or not they are against free tuition in SUCs.

“Everyone, including the economic managers, will have to focus their attention on this particular aspect funding for this program because this will have to be implemented soon,” Guevarra said, adding that the SUC law will be implemented in the next school year.

Senators lauded Duterte for signing the measure.

Senate Committee on Education chairperson Sen. Francis Joseph “Chiz” G. Escudero said it would be “one of the lasting legacies” of the Duterte administration.

“I thank President Duterte for signing the Free Tertiary Education Act! This will be one of the lasting legacies of his presidency and administration,” said Escudero, one of the lawmakers who defended the passage of the measure.

Congressmen led by former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria M. Arroyo also thanked Duterte for signing the measure.

Mrs. Arroyo said that it contained one of her two bills that became laws within a period of one week.

“First was the extension of validity of our passports to 10 years and now the signing by President Duterte of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act which includes my bill under House Bill No. 3388 which creates the Student Loan Board for college students enrolled in private schools,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

Meanwhile, Duterte yesterday signed into law a bill that imposes stricter penalties on medical facilities seeking deposits or advance payments from patients before treating them in emergency situations.

Republic Act 10932 strengthens the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law by increasing the penalties for hospitals and medical clinics that refuse to administer appropriate initial medical treatment and support in emergency or serious cases.