P100 M from 'pork' to aid poor students
MANILA, Philippines - Some 50 lawmakers who graduated from the University of the Philippines are targeting to raise P100 million from their pork barrel allocations to put up an assistance fund for poor UP students.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez disclosed this yesterday as other House members slammed the huge cuts made by the Aquino administration on the budget of state universities and colleges (SUCs).
Rodriguez, an alumnus of the UP College of Law, said he and his colleagues from UP are setting aside P2 million each from their annual Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to put up the new UP Financial Assistance Fund.
“UP has a very limited budget and I also appeal to the private sector to pitch in and have more scholars,” Rodriguez told The STAR.
The lawmakers came up with the initiative following the death of Kristel Tejada, a behavioral science freshman at UP Manila, who committed suicide over her failure to pay tuition.
The 16-year-old Tejada dreamed of becoming a surgeon and helping her four siblings. She drank silver cleaning solution at her home in Tondo, Manila last Friday and died later in a hospital.
UP president Alfredo Pascual on Tuesday lifted the controversial “no late payment” policy, which has been blamed for the suicide of Tejada.
According to Rodriguez, the UP’s Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) must be thoroughly reviewed as the program was found to be not in tune with the changing financial status of students.
He said that in Tejada’s case, UP officials failed to take into account “the change in circumstances” in her family’s finances.
Her mother, a housewife, said they were not able to pay her daughter’s P10,000 tuition loan since the family depended on the meager income of her husband, a part-time taxi driver.
“Some students’ parent or parents lose their jobs or livelihood while they are enrolled, so that should be quickly taken into account by school officials in their system, in evaluating a student’s request for loan extensions,” Rodriguez said.
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said “the biggest culprit is the more than P1-billion slash in the budget of SUCs.”
“I have openly advocated for free college education. In this globalized and complex world, a college education is a matter of ultimate necessity, but free college education is a function of collected revenues,” he said.
Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said SUCs have no more “coping mechanisms” due to the budget cuts.
“Education as a right demands that schools exercise flexibility and maximum consideration. I blame the government’s lopsided priorities and the school’s mechanical and insensitive implementation of a policy,” she said.
For his part, Marikina City Rep. Marcelino Teodoro said the people should not put the entire blame on the STFAP policy of UP as the reason behind Kristel’s suicide.
“The way she died was a choice she made and we can never fully understand what went on in her mind for doing so,” he said. “Nevertheless, the UP’s scholarship policy is what one might say, ancient, that must be reviewed and revised immediately.”
Teodoro said it was ironic that UP, established to help and educate poor Filipinos, deprives its students of knowledge because of financial reasons.
“They must stay true to their mandate so that no other student suffers the consequences of a faulty scholarship policy,” he said.