MANILA, Aug. 2 – Senators on Wednesday expressed hope that President Rodrigo Duterte would still sign the measure seeking free tuition for state universities and colleges (SUCs) even after the administration’s economic managers said that the government cannot afford to fund it.
“This is a policy that everyone in the Senate supported, regardless of political party. Around 1.6 million students in SUCs and their families are expecting it. I am still hoping this will become law,” Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said in a press statement.
Aquino, former chair of the Senate Committee on Education, pushed for the measure’s passage in the Senate as principal sponsor and co-author.
He previously said that he expected President Duterte to have signed the measure in time for his State of the Nation Address (SONA) but it was not mentioned in his speech.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, for his part, vowed to refile the measure if the President vetoes it.
“If the president vetoes the measure which I still hope he won’t, we will surely re-file a version purged of what the executive branch saw as the objectionable provisions,” Angara said.
He conceded that a veto override, to be mustered by two-thirds of members in each house of Congress, will be difficult.
“…What we can do is to immediately re-file the bill and request the Senate education committee chair to prioritize it,” he added.
The bill subsidizing the education of students in SUCs, local tertiary schools and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority-accredited institutions has already been approved and ratified by the Senate and House of Representatives and is just awaiting President Duterte’s signature.
It will lapse into law on August 5 unless vetoed by the President.
If passed into law, students will start to enjoy free education starting the second semester of schoolyear 2017 to 2018. Aside from tuition fees, the government will also shoulder miscellaneous and other fees.
Under the law, scholarship grants will also be made available to students of both public and private college and universities. It also provides a loan program, where students can apply for financing for other education expenses. (ANP with Angela Coloma-OJT/PNA)