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Kabataan presents new set of nominees for party-list elections, endorses Neri Colmenares’ bid for Senate

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[5 Feb 2016 | No Comment | 150 views]

Youth groups led by Kabataan Partylist and the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) trooped to the main office of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in Quezon City on Friday to denounce the new spate of tuition and other school fee increases in over 400 colleges and universities next year.

Carrying banners with feisty slogans denouncing the high cost of education in the Philippines, students from various private schools converged in front of UP Diliman’s Oblation statue and marched to CHED’s main office, where they held a spirited program in front of CHED’s gates.

Student activists carried a mock logo of CHED bearing the inscription “Commission on Highly Expensive Tuition” and a mock registration fee filled with various dubious fees, both of which were set afire amid the chants of “education is right, not a privilege.”

Groups also hanged school uniforms over CHED’s gates to symbolize the thousands of students who will drop out next school year due to the high cost of college education.

“From Luzon to Mindanao, parents and students are calling out to CHED and the Aquino government to stop the impending hikes. Yet this callous, uncaring and inutile commission and its boss in the Palace continue to play deaf. If the impending tuition hikes push through, let every student who drops out due to financial constraints this year be counted against Aquino and CHED,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said.

Earlier this week, Ridon bared that based on Kabataan’s independent monitoring, about 400 schools in the country will propose tuition hikes ranging from five to 15 percent for next academic year.

In a legislative hearing last Wednesday, CHED officials confirmed the said figures, noting that schools have yet to pass their proposals to the commission. Consultations for tuition increase proposals are held in schools during the month of February.

Kabataan Partylist also released a study last Wednesday which showed that both tuition rates and profits of private universities have almost doubled under Aquino’s five years as president.

“With the highly deregulated nature of the Philippine education system, college education has become a very lucrative business, with many private universities posting billions upon billions in profit. These data show that under President Aquino, this system of moneymaking in education has clearly gone from bad to worse,” said Sarah Elago, NUSP President and Kabataan Partylist first nominee.

“The cost of higher education, especially public higher education, is not only a local concern – but a national issue. The current state of college education in the country – which is highly unaffordable and inaccessible for the common Filipino – is the result of the Aquino administration’s continued push to turn education into a business venture, a luxury commodity, rather than a right,” Elago maintained.###

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[3 Feb 2016 | No Comment | 574 views]

With the incessant increase in tuition and other school fees each year, not only have tuition and other school rates almost doubled under President Benigno Aquino III’s presidency, but the profits of top private universities as well.

In a new study released by Kabataan Partylist on Wednesday, it was revealed that several top private universities in the country increased revenues and profits since Aquino assumed the presidency in 2010.

Data culled from the annual financial reports submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) show a steady increase in profitability of some of the country’s most well-known private higher education institutions (HEIs), with some universities almost doubling their annual profit in a span of just five years.

Far Eastern University (FEU), a university that consistently appears in the annual Business World Top 1,000 Corporations, posted an 81-percent growth in net profits, from P713 million in 2010 to a whopping P1.08 billion in 2015.

The Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU) meanwhile posted an over 140-percent growth in net profits in the past five years, with the Intramuros-based university posting a total of P657.6 million in net profits in 2015, more than double its P272.6 million declared net profit in 2010.

The University of the East (UE) also increased its profits in the same period, with the school growing its net profit by over 30 percent, from just P352.3 million in 2010 to P463.5 million in 2015.

Non-stock, non-profit universities also posted considerable increases in net revenue, or total collection net of operating expenses. The De La Salle University (DLSU), for example, posted a 62-percent growth in net revenue, from P381.9 million in 2010 to P734 million in 2015.

The University of Santo Tomas (UST) also posted an increase in net revenue, from only P941 million in 2010 to over P1.3 billion in 2015.

“With the highly deregulated nature of the Philippine education system, college education has become a very lucrative business, with many private universities posting billions upon billions in profit. These data show that under President Aquino, this system of moneymaking in education has clearly gone from bad to worse,” said Sarah Elago, president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) President and Kabataan Partylist first nominee.

Elago, along with Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon, reported these findings in a legislative forum on tuition and other school fees conducted by the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education (CHTE) today.

Soaring tuition rates

The rise in profits and revenues coincide with the upsurge in tuition and other school fee collections in private colleges and universities.

Data from SEC show that many top private HEIs posted increased tuition and other school fee collection in the past five years.

Source: Securities and Exchange Commission

Source: Securities and Exchange Commission

In UST, collection from tuition and other school fees has increased by over 40 percent, from a total of P2.9 billion in 2010 to P4.1 billion in 2015, SEC data show. This translates to an increase of over P27,000 in the annual matriculation rates of a UST student in just five years, with the average tuition and other school fees in the said school ballooning from P68,000 in 2010 to over P95,000 in 2015.

In DLSU, the situation is almost the same, with the university posting a 62-percent increase in its total collection from students in the past five years, from P1.8 billion in 2010 to P2.9 billion in 2015. This raises the average annual matriculation in the said university from P93,000 in 2010 to over P151,000 in 2015.

Students of the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) also need to prepare six-digit school fees a year, with the university posting a 43-percent growth in tuition and other school fee revenues, from P1.9 billion in 2010 to P2.7 billion in 2015. The average annual matriculation in AdMU has consequently increased from P187,000 in 2010 to P266,000 in 2015.

“The incessant increase in the rates of tuition and other school fees is the result of the government’s extant policy of deregulation and commercialization of education. Aquino, and his alter ego in the Commission on Higher Education, Chairperson Licuanan, has allowed college education to become more unaffordable and inaccessible. This administration virtually did nothing to stop these increases,” Rep. Ridon said.

Similar situation in state schools

While state universities and colleges (SUCs) have yet to reach six-digit annual school rates, that situation may change soon, with the country’s 113 state schools also posting large hikes in tuition and other school fee collection under the Aquino administration.

Source: Department of Budget and Management

Source: Department of Budget and Management

Data compiled from the Department of Budget and Management show that the total tuition collection in SUCs has increased by 55 percent, from P5.3 billion in 2010 to P8.1 billion in 2015.

Collection from other school fees is meanwhile growing faster, with SUCs posting an 83 percent increase in total other school fee collection in the past five years, from P2.6 billion in 2010 to P4.7 billion in 2015.

Despite being subsidized by the national government, state schools have been gradually increasing their tuition and other school fee rates in the past years, in compliance with the “self-sustaining” framework under the Roadmap for Public Higher Education Reform, Aquino’s masterplan for public higher education.

Schools have been implementing various schemes to gradually increase tuition collection. UP, for example, implements a “Socialized Tuition System,” wherein students pay varying costs, depending on their assessed financial capacity.

UP has increased its tuition collection from P355 million in 2010 to P473 million in 2014.

“The cost of higher education, especially public higher education, is not only a local concern – but a national issue. The current state of college education in the country – which is highly unaffordable and inaccessible for the common Filipino – is the result of the Aquino administration’s continued push to turn education into a business venture, a luxury commodity, rather than a right,” Elago maintained.

“Clearly, a radical reorientation of our education policy is needed. The fight against tuition and other school fee increases is not just a localized issue – it’s a fight against an extant policy that has eroded and snatched the youth’s fundamental right to education,” she added.

Youth and student groups led by Kabataan Partylist and the Rise for Education Alliance are staging nationally-coordinated walkouts on February 27 and March 11 to campaign against the new wave of tuition and other fee increases for the upcoming school year and call on the president to scrap the deregulation policy and freeze matriculation rates nationwide.

Rise for Education estimates that about 400 colleges and universities are again planning to increase tuition rates for academic year 2016-2017.###

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[29 Jan 2016 | No Comment | 134 views]

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon chided Malacañang officials on Friday for “ruthlessly twisting and downplaying” the marked economic slowdown manifested by the slower full-year Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for 2015.

This is the second year that the GDP has slumped, with growth sliding from the peak 7.1 percent growth in 2013, to 6.1 percent in 2014, to only 5.8 percent last year.

“These figures offer a bleak economic forecast for the coming year. Yet what we are more appalled about is the fact that Malacañang officials, especially Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad still have the gall to heap praises to the administration despite the slowdown,” Ridon said.

The lawmaker noted that instead of discussing the economic downturn as it is, Lacierda and Abad “twisted data to downplay, and even hide” the slowdown.

“Take Lacierda, who obfuscated reality by using technical terms like the ‘6-year moving average,’ which actually masks the fact that a marked economic slowdown has again taken place,” Ridon said.

In a statement, Lacierda said the 5.8-percent full-year GDP growth is an “encouraging result” that is “in line with the government’s commitment to growth that is both inclusive and sustainable.”

“This is far from the truth. The truth is that since 2014, our country has been experiencing an economic downturn, which actually signals the coming of a greater crash. Lacierda and the Aquino administration want to whitewash that fact, and glaze it over with sweet euphemisms,” Ridon said.

Way below target

Ridon noted that in 2015, the government’s fiscal managers actually projected a 7-8 percent GDP growth, as reflected in the 2015 National Expenditure Program. “We’re way off-target, and this has serious implications, even for the country’s national budget,” he said.

The lawmaker also noted that while the fourth quarter GDP rebounded to 6.3 percent, thus becoming the highest quarterly growth for the year, the growth is still slower than the 6.6 percent posted in the same period last year.

“Analyzing these figures, we can see that the main driver of growth remains to be the service sector, which provides service and not actual products, which include banking, real estate, education, and media. This reflects our nation’s continued failure to address growth drivers in the industry and agriculture sectors,” Ridon said.

The lawmaker noted that while the service sector posted a 6.7 percent growth in 2015, up from 5.9 percent posted the previous year, both industry and agriculture sectors have meanwhile decelerated.

Industry contracted to 6.0 percent in 2015 from the 7.9 percent posted in 2014. Growth in agriculture, meanwhile decelerated to 0.2 percent in 2015 from 1.6 percent in 2014.

“We are particularly concerned about the steady and continued contraction of the agriculture sector, which remains to be one of the largest source of employment in the country. The Philippines is an agricultural country, yet the agriculture sector now only comprises about 10 percent of the GDP,” Ridon said.

Next president to face bleak economic outlook

Given the current economic situation, the lawmaker expressed concern over the effect of external shocks to the Philippine economy in the coming years.

“There are several external shocks that we need to take into consideration: the intensifying slowdown experienced by China, falling commodity prices, the Eurozone debt problems, and falling oil prices. All these paint a bleak economic outlook for the next sitting president,” Ridon said.

“The Philippine economy can be largely affected by the volatile global situation. What we need is to focus on domestic job generation and the uplifting of the people’s incomes. These are more stable sources of demand and economic growth that will help us weather through the impending world economic downturn,” the lawmaker explained, noting that under the current administration, domestic employment generation remains largely sluggish, while daily wages remain stagnant.

“Clearly, there is a need for a radical change in the country’s economic policy that would address the slumping industry and agriculture sectors. More than ever, there is a need for us to push for national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform,” Ridon concluded.###

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[29 Jan 2016 | No Comment | 220 views]

Youth groups led by Kabataan Partylist, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), and the League of Filipino Students (LFS) stormed the gates of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila today to demand for the release of 136 youth political prisoners languishing in various jails across the country.

“There is a need to highlight the reality that the Aquino government’s continuing policy of political detention has gravely affected the ranks of the youth. We condemn the continued incarceration of these youths, and the filing of trumped-up charges against them. We call for their immediate release,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon.

Currently, there are 136 youth political prisoners aged 35 and below detained in various jails across the country, of which 102 were arrested during Aquino’s presidency. About 75 other political detainees, meanwhile, were arrested and detained at the time of their youth, many of them already languishing in jail for over a decade.

Many youth political detainees are activists and youth organizers from various universities that have been slapped with trumped-up cases like illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives.

“In our recent jail visits, these youth detainees detailed to us how government authorities have tortured them and treated them with brutality. How can this administration continue to talk about daang matuwid when it can’t even treat our youth with dignity and respect, when human rights continue to be violated?” Ridon asked.

The youth lawmaker called on the DOJ to immediately review the cases of youth political detainees, along with the call for the immediate and unconditional release of 82 sickly and 50 elderly political prisoners.

“How can Aquino and his cohorts sleep well at night when they know that they are robbing these youth political detainees the best years of their lives? We call on the president to act immediately, and order for their release at the soonest,” Ridon said.

“What greater injustice could there be than to be robbed of one’s youth? To be jailed for their beliefs? We will exhaust all possible means to ensure their unconditional release at the soonest,” the lawmaker added.###

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[25 Jan 2016 | No Comment | 229 views]

Justice will remain elusive for all victims of the bloody Mamasapano clash as long as no one is held accountable, a party-list group said Monday, as the nation marks the first anniversary of the said encounter, which led to the deaths of 44 members of the PNP Special Action Force, 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, 5 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and several civilians.

“The Filipino people remains in mourning, even a year after the Mamasapano bloodbath. Justice can never be attained if the Aquino administration continues to put up with its obvious move to obfuscate the truth,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said.

Youth groups led by Kabataan Partylist marched to Mendiola today to call for President Aquino’s incarceration, insisting that there is “mounting evidence” that proves that the chief executive is also the mastermind of Oplan Exodus.

“We want Aquino to be put behind bars, not only for masterminding Mamasapano, but also for systematically hiding the whole truth about Mamasapano from the Filipino people,” Ridon said.

The youth lawmaker expressed hope that the reopening of the Senate probe on the Mamasapano fiasco will give more light to the actual involvement of the president in the botched operation.

“People are starting to talk. There’s former SAF Director Getulio Napeñas, who insists on the president’s involvement. And there’s Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who stopped short of confirming that Aquino was on top of the operation on that fateful day exactly a year ago,” Ridon noted.

Duterte recently told the widows of the SAF 44 that the elite troops were “thrown into the lion’s lair” during the bloody operation, and said that he will tell what he knows if the Senate compels him to do so.

“All indications point to one conclusion: there is more to the Mamasapano debacle than what the Aquino administration dares to bare. We truly hope that the upcoming Senate probe will provide us with a clearer picture of the president’s direct involvement in this whole affair,” Ridon said.

The lawmaker also said that the Senate should look into all pieces of evidence that will be presented in this week’s hearing, including the audio recording that will be presented by retired police Chief Superintendent Diosdado Valeroso, which allegedly contains a conversation between a lawmaker and a ranking government official that allegedly proves that a cover-up has taken place.

“All pieces of evidence must be closely scrutinized. This is a moment for the Senate to prove its salt and probe the whole affair with integrity, even if it means implicating the president,” Ridon said.

Apart from Aquino’s involvement, the Senate should also give more light to Washington’s role in Oplan Exodus.

“Clearly, there are still many essential questions that remain unanswered. The Filipino people, especially the families of the victims, deserve nothing less but the truth. And this time, not just the partial picture, but the whole truth,” Ridon ended.###