“Aquino gave the go signal for schools to hike fees; he is the enabler of the deregulated status of education.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Youth groups led by Anakbayan-Metro Manila chapter stormed Gate 7 of Malacañang Palace last June 16 to protest the approval by the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) of petitions for tuition hike of 287 colleges and universities for the school year 2014-2015.
A total of 353 higher education institutions (HEIs) applied for increases in tuition and other fees for school year 2014-2015. For this school year, the average tuition hike of HEIs in Metro Manila is pegged at 6.05 percent. At least 64 schools hiked fees in Metro Manila alone.
Jacqueline Tan, deputy secretary general of Anakbayan-Metro Manila said in the four years of President Benigno S. Aquino III, the cost of education has incessantly increased.
“Despite stern opposition from the people, he has continuously permitted tuition hikes, collection of exorbitant and dubious fees favoring capitalists who are running a business out of the people’s right to education.”
Tan also slammed Aquino’s statement that Ched can approve proposed tuition hikes of HEIs as long as they follow the correct process. “Aquino gave the go signal for schools to hike fees; he is the enabler of the deregulated status of education. He deserves to be called king, the Tuition Hike King,” said Tan.
No public announcement
According to the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) the Ched did not announce the approval of the proposals for hike in tuition and other fees of 287 HEIs.
“It is by pure chance that complainants, on June 11, finally found out the status of the pending complaints, through obtaining – not through official channels but through purely accidental circumstances – a copy of the consolidated report on approved tuition and other fee increases for academic year 2014-2015,” the joint complaint-affidavit read.
“Such unjustifiable act further worsens the injury inflicted upon the complainants, and is proof of Ched’s manifest partiality to school administrators.”
On June 13, youth groups and students under the Rise for Education Alliance filed criminal and administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman against Ched chairwoman Patricia Licuanan and seven other high-ranking Ched officials for approving tuition hikes in 287 HEIs in the country and failing to issue a decision on pending tuition complaints.
The petitioners Sarah Elago of the NUSP, Marc Lino Abila of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), Vencer Crisostomo of Anakbayan, Charlotte Velasco of the League of Filipino Students (LFS), and students James Bryan Deang and Vincent Sudaria charged Licuanan and the seven other Ched officials namely, Maria Cynthia Rose Bautista, Minella Alarcon, Alex Brillantes Jr., and Ruperto Sanggalang, Executive Director Julito Vitriolo, Ched National Capital Region Regional Director Leonida Calagui, and former Ched NCR Regional Director Catherine Castañeda, with “gross incompetence, gross inefficiency, and gross neglect of duty.”
“The case at hand springs from Ched’s wholesale failure to perform its constitutional mandate to exercise reasonable supervision and regulation of educational institutions due to the commission’s gross inexcusable incompetence, inefficiency, and negligence in handling several complaints filed by students against tuition increase proposals for academic year 2014-2015; and the unexplainable non-enforcement of a Ched en banc resolution that disallowed the charging of so-called ‘development fees’ in higher education institutions,” the petitioners stated in their joint complaint-affidavit.
In earlier Bulatlat.com report, Elago said students have pending complaints before the Ched against the University of the East (Recto and Caloocan campuses), University of Santo Tomas, De La Salle Araneta University, Feati University, National Teachers College, Far Eastern University, Lyceum of the Philippines University, National University, and the University of Manila for violations of Circular Memorandum Order No. 3 series of 2012 or the Enhanced policies, guidelines and procedures governing increases in tuition and other school fees, introduction of new fees and for other purposes.
However, the group said, more than two months after the complaints have been filed, Ched has not released a final decision on any of the pending petitions, “thus violating its own rules on tuition increases while also committing gross incompetence, gross inefficiency, and gross neglect of duty.”
“The said omission committed by CHED officials has resulted to the charging of new and higher rates during the enrollment period of schools with pending complaints, constituting grave damage on the part of the petitioners in the pending cases,” the joint complaint-affidavit read.
Collection of development fee
In its joint affidavit-complaint, the petitioners said the collection of development fee is still rampant in many public and private colleges and universities. This despite the issuance of Ched en banc Resolution No. 221-2012 which abolished and prohibited the collection of developmental fees, or fees collected for the purpose of school improvements such as infrastructure and land development. The resolution was signed by Licuanan herself and four other Ched commissioners.
“Despite this clear issuance, public and private universities still collect developmental fees that range from P120 ($2.73) to as much as P2,000 ($45.58) in academic year 2013-2014.”
Data culled by the Rise for Education Alliance also showed that public and private HEIs changed the category of development fees to facilities improvement fees, special development fees, cultural and development fee, land infrastructure, maintenance and acquisition development fee or special development fund.
“Ched apparently interprets its own Resolution No. 221-2012 as only covering fees that are explicitly called ‘developmental fees.’ Proof to this is a statement made by CHED Commissioner Ruperto Sanggalang during the fourth regular meeting of the EARIST Board of Trustees last November 19, 2013, wherein he said that if EARIST wanted to collect other fees, ‘the name of the fee should not be ‘development fee’ anymore’ and that there should be a ‘more specific name,’” the petitioners said in the joint complaint-affidavit.
‘Tuition hikes burden to the Filipinos’
Tan said tuition hikes are a burden to Filipinos. She said that while the Aquino administration quickly approved tuition increases with just a snap of a finger, the calls for significant wage hike by workers are shoved aside. “How will the majority, the struggling families, keep up with the rising cost of education when their wages aren’t even enough?” said Tan.
Tan added that the daily cost of living for a family of six is now at P1, 200 ($27.35) and the minimum wage in Metro Manila is only set at P456 ($10.39) while the regional wage is at P205 ($4.67).
“The people’s wages are nowhere near the rates of increase in schools fees. Even professionals and overseas Filipino workers are already complaining about the alarming cost of education. Most college students are now sons and daughters of OFWs because of the economic crisis,” she added.
The group also burned mock logos of Ched and Malacañang in front of the Palace as a symbol of protest last Monday, June 16.
“Neglect of duty to the people is a treasonous act for kings. In that matter, Aquino has betrayed the people many times over. We are here to indict him for all his crimes and we, alongside the people, will ensure that we will prevail,” Tan said.