ILOILO City – Ilonggo youth and students brought to the streets of this city their continued call for the impartial implementation of Free Tuition Policy and the support for the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines on Thursday afternoon.

The senate and the congress previously appropriated a total of Php8.3 billion supplemental budget under the General Appropriation Act of 2017  to cover the tuition of around 1.4 million students from various state universities and colleges for the school year 2017-2018.

Conditional Provisions, Discriminatory
The youth groups, however, slammed the discriminatory provisions of the Free Tuition Policy.

“The free tuition policy might become a heartbreaker for the Filipino youth for the possibilities of higher tuition in public schools and narrowed access through the socialized tuition scheme, and might also increase funding for private schools with the proposed student loan program,” said JC Alejandro, Kabataan Partylist Panay Spokesperson.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) was put on the hot seat during the Committee on Higher Technical Education (CHTE) of the House of Representatives deliberations on several free education bill last February 6 for their contentious implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the free tuition policy for SY 2017-2018.

Some of the gravely contentious provisions of the proposed IRR according to Kabataan Partylist are the following: the continued collections of tuition and other school fees, in accordance with RA 8292 (Higher Education Modernization Act of 1997, or HEMA); the exemption of the University of the Philippines (UP) system in the implementation; standardization of criteria for beneficiaries will be implemented across all SUCs (effectively, a nationwide implementation of UP’s socialized tuition system), limiting the beneficiaries following the standardization of criteria; ineligibility of all beneficiaries of existing scholarships, such as Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STuFAPs), for the program.

According to Alejandro,  the Filipino youth has long been denied of their rights for education thus the utmost need to amplify their unities to compel the Duterte government and CHED to abrogate the unjust policies and heed the just demands of the youth for a free education for all.

All-out Peace not All-out War
The groups denounced the intensified  repression and attacks against the civilian populace and members and leaders of progressive organizations after Duterte’s termination of the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP and the declaration of an all-out war against the CPP-NPA-NDFP.

“Militarization of both urban and rural areas with Duterte’s all-out war campaign on top of the war on drugs brings unrelented state violence and terror . Even schools will not be exempted with the reintroduction of mandatory ROTC ,” said Bryan Bosque, Anakbayan Panay spokesperson.

Nine political killings have been recorded by the Karapatan Alliance for the Advancements of People’s Rights in the span of three weeks after the cancellation of the unilateral ceasefire of the GRP. Among those killed were either farmers or members of indigenous communities; six (6) of them were members of progressive organizations. Military operations in the countrysides have also forced hundreds of families to evacuate.

The groups called on the immediate resumption of the stalled peace talks between the two parties who are supposedly scheduled to tackle the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) and for the GRP to abide by previous agreements, including the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), and to sincerely address the root causes of the armed conflict.

“What the Filipino youth and the people need is a just and lasting peace which can only be achieved if there are land for the tillers, quality and accessible education for the youth, and access to basic social services,” said Bosque.

“Collective action makes a difference. Together, the Filipino youth and the people must continue the fight for a free, nationalist, scientific and mass-oriented education, and a just and lasting peace,” Bosque ended. (Rosanna Inaudito | panaytoday.net)

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