[19 May 2015 | No Comment | 294 views]

By approving skyrocketing increases in tuition and other school fees in 313 colleges and universities across the nation, CHED has once again betrayed its constitutional mandate to ensure the affordability and accessibility of education.

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[27 May 2015 | No Comment | 43 views]

Following consecutive reports of education-related deaths, a party-list lawmaker representing the youth has called on his colleagues in the House of Representatives to “scrap the decades-old policy of education deregulation” and “immediately enact laws that will safeguard the constitutional rights of Filipino students to affordable and accessible education.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon filed House Resolution No. 2135, which seeks to “express the sense of the House of Representatives that education is a right and public education should be free and accessible at all levels.”

“The recent spate of deaths related to the inaccessibility and unaffordability of Philippine education is telling. The education crisis has become so pervasive that we have come to a situation wherein more and more students are being driven to desperation,” Ridon said.

Last Sunday, 17-year old Nilna Habibun, a college student from Zamboanga Sibugay, committed suicide after receiving news from her parents that they can no longer support her studies this coming school year.

This news comes merely a week after graduating computer science student Jhoemary Azaula, 19, decided to take his life in his hometown in Polillo, Quezon last May 18, after learning that he can no longer return to Manila to finish his course at the state-run Euologio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST).

Just this February, Cagayan State University student Rosanna Sanfuego also took her life due to education and financial constraints. In 2013, UP Manila student Kristel Tejada also took her life due to failure to settle her matriculation in time for her examinations.

“These deaths should be cause for alarm and should jolt this lethargic Congress into action. What we need of course is to redefine how we look at public education and how we view education regulation,” Ridon said.

There are four main position statements in House Resolution No. 2135 that Ridon would like Congress to declare as a matter of policy:

(1) Education is a right. It is the constitutional obligation of the State to ensure quality education is accessible at all levels as an integral component in nation-building and guaranteeing the full human development of its citizens.

(2) The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) should be held liable and accountable for failing to act upon formal complaints and protests on relentless collection of dubious, redundant and exorbitant fees in various colleges and universities in the country.

(3) The collection of other school fees infringes on the access of youth to tertiary education and must therefore be abolished. The burden and cost of keeping our state universities and colleges functioning should be carried by the State, and should not be passed to students and their parents.

(4) The implementation of Education Act of 1982 has only legitimized and institutionalized annual increases in tuition and other school fees, making education inaccessible to the youth. This policy gravely compromises the basic right to education of the Filipino people and therefore, must be scrapped.

“Before we can make urgent moves to address the spiraling cost of education in the country, Congress must first agree on these four basic position statements. To address the education crisis, one should really strike at the root of the problem, which are pervasive commercialization of educational institutions and the decades-old state policy of education deregulation,” Ridon stressed.KPL logo clean version

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[26 May 2015 | No Comment | 108 views]

Contrary to President Benigno Aquino III’s claims, the Philippines is nowhere near attaining first world status, a party-list lawmaker said Tuesday.

“A simple check at the status of the economy and our nation’s job creation immediately belies any claim that we are nearing first world status as a country,” Ridon said.

The lawmaker was referring to a statement made by the president during the Brigada Eskwela activity at Marikina Elementary School yesterday.

“Kung madidiligan ang ating mga pinunla, at makaka-graduate ang mga pinag-aaral natin upang makapasok sa maaayos na trabaho, baka po tuluyan nang nasa first world status tayo sa panahong iyon,” Aquino said, explaining that his administration’s programs are behind such development.

“Mr. President, nothing’s farther from the truth. Our nation is mired in poverty, we cannot create jobs domestically, and our youth are neither studying nor working. Before you brag about your first world status delusion, you should first get your facts straight,” Ridon said.

The youth solon noted a study by independent think tank IBON Foundation which shows that the number of overseas Filipino workers leaving the country on a daily basis far outpaces jobs created domestically. The research group noted that based on government figures, the country has deployed over 4,500 workers per day in 2014, while only an average of 2,800 jobs are created domestically per day.

“Our president likes to paint a rosy picture of progress every time he opens his mouth. But in fact, he does this to gloss over the grim reality – that the Philippines has even turned for the worse in several vital sections,” Ridon said.

The lawmaker also noted the high unemployment among the rank of the youth during the Aquino presidency.

Based on conservative official figures from the Philippine Statistical Authority’s (PSA) January 2015 Labor Force Survey released last March 12, about 4.1 million Filipinos are unemployed as of January 2015. Of the total unemployed, the age group 15 to 24 years comprised 47.3 percent or about 2 million, while the age group 25 to 34, 31.6 percent or about 1.3 million.

Taken together, about 3.3 million youths aged 15-34 are unemployed as of January. The PSA also noted that one in five unemployed Filipinos is a college graduate.

“We have to consider that these are conservative government figures that do not consider those who work part-time or work from home as unemployed. Still, the figures as they are reveal the worsening jobs crisis in the country, especially in the ranks of the youth,” Ridon stressed.

“Coupled with depressed wages and the soaring cost of living, this worsening jobs crisis results to widening poverty in the country,” he added.

“How can we graduate into being a first world nation under such circumstances?” the lawmaker asked.

The lack of national industries and the worsening state of agriculture are some of the main reasons why the nation cannot create jobs and stimulate the economy significantly, Ridon said.

“Instead of creating jobs in the country, the government vastly relies on its extant labor export policy, which drives millions of Filipinos abroad to find jobs. This policy is further intensified by the implementation of the K to 12 program, which is fundamentally designed to produce skilled workers for export,” the youth solon explained.KPL logo clean version

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[26 May 2015 | No Comment | 97 views]

Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan denounced the Department of Education’s (DepEd) approval of the latest wave of tuition and other fee increases in over 1,200 private elementary and high schools, saying that the move exposes another nefarious objective of the implementation of the K to 12 program, which is to force more students to pay higher fees.

DepEd announced Monday that it has approved 1,245 out of 1,556 tuition hike applications in private elementary and high schools, with the rate of increase ranging from 1.25 percent to as high as 29 percent.

“DepEd says that the increases are justified because 70 percent of the incremental proceeds will go to teachers’ salaries. Yet that is an outright lie. If such is the case, how can DepEd explain the fact that many private school teachers still earn salaries that are way lower than what public school teachers get?” Ridon said.

“The new spate of fee increases which reach up to 29 percent is totally uncalled for. Moreover, this reveals another nefarious objective of the full implementation of the K to 12 program: force more students to pay higher fees and guarantee profits for private school owners,” the lawmaker added.

DepEd has earlier reported to Congress that the country’s public school system can only accommodate 800,000 to 1.1 million senior high school students next year, despite the fact that the education department is expecting that up to 1.6 million students will be reaching senior high school by that time.

“DepEd expects that the remaining 800,000 or so students will be absorbed by what they call as ‘non-DepEd schools.’ Bulk of such schools are private education institutions that charge high tuition rates,” Ridon said.

“Connect these facts and we’ll see what DepEd is secretly after: jack up the cost of private school education through relentless tuition hikes while also ensuring the transfer of many students from public to private schools due to the incapacity of public schools to absorb all incoming senior high school students,” Ridon explained. Under such circumstance, DepEd is in fact setting up a situation wherein more students will be forced to enrol in expensive private schools just to graduate from the basic education program, he stressed.

“It’s a devilish plan that ensures that private schools will have a greater number of enrolees, and consequently, higher profit, all to the disadvantage of thousands of students,” Ridon said.

“Ultimately, this can lead to a situation wherein close to a million students will have no choice but to drop out as they cannot be accommodated by the public school system, and their families cannot sustain their enrolment in private schools,” the lawmaker pointed out, noting that even if DepEd will offer subsidies for students expected to be displaced in public schools come 2016, such subsidy will not cover the full cost of matriculation for most private schools.

“It’s one hell of a plan that will benefit no one but the private school owners and their banner men in the education department,” Ridon quipped.KPL logo clean version

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[26 May 2015 | No Comment | 131 views]

With two consecutive education-related deaths occurring over the past week alone, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon sounded the alarm Tuesday, saying that the government’s continued disregard for the rising cost of education is “pushing more and more youths to desperation.”

Police reports show that 17-year old Nilna Habibun, a college student from Zamboanga Sibugay, committed suicide Sunday night, after receiving news from her parents that they can no longer support her studies this coming school year.

This news comes merely a week after graduating computer science student Jhoemary Azaula, 19, decided to take his life in his hometown in Polillo, Quezon last May 18, after learning that he can no longer return to Manila to finish his course at the state-run Euologio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST).

“We are grieving. We are enraged. When UP Manila student Kristel Tejada took her life back in 2013, the Aquino administration shrugged its shoulders and dismissed her death as an ‘isolated case.’ Yet after Kristel, we lost Rosanna Sanfuego back in February, then Jhoemary, and now Nilna. These are not isolated cases – this is a clear manifestation of the growing desperation of the Filipino youth brought about by the worsening education crisis,” Ridon said.

Azaula and Habibun’s deaths came mere days after the Commission on Higher Education approved a new wave of tuition increases in 313 colleges and universities in the country.

According to Ridon, the rising cost of tuition and other school fees is further compounded by the high cost of student housing and daily college expenses.

“For the vast majority of Filipino families, sending a child to college is akin to signing a bankruptcy notice. Yet what is the government doing? Practically nothing, except to condone the yearly increases in matriculation, essentially siding with school owners,” the legislator said, referring to President Spokesperson Sonny Coloma’s statement over the weekend wherein the secretary said that the new wave of tuition increases are “lawful and reasonable.”

Ridon stressed that the annual tuition and other fee hikes is the result of the Commission on Higher Education’s failure to fulfill its constitutional mandate to “reasonably supervise and regulate” tertiary education.

“At the heart of the problem lies the policy of deregulating tuition and other school fees that was enshrined in Section 42 of the Education Act of 1982. This provision has been misinterpreted to mean allowing the unbridled, unhampered and arbitrary increase in school fees at the expense of the people’s constitutional right to an accessible and quality education,” Ridon said.

“The government’s current tuition regulation policy – CHED Memorandum Order 3 – is also toothless paper tiger. While the said policy lays down guidelines for proper consultations regarding fee increases, CHED has no proper mechanism to monitor compliance,” the lawmaker added.

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Kristel, Rosanna, Jhoemary, and Nilna did not commit suicide. The system of pervasive tuition and other fee increases, coupled with the worsening living conditions in the country, has in fact murdered them. How many deaths need to happen before CHED and the Aquino administration realize that the government’s education deregulation is pushing the Filipino youth to desperation? How many more deaths will occur before CHED and Aquino administration act decisively?” the lawmaker asked.

In this light, Ridon challenged Malacañang to issue an executive order to halt the implementation of the new wave of tuition and other fee increases for the incoming school year.

“More and more youths are being driven to desperation due to the worsening education crisis. We are mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore. The longstanding policy of education deregulation needs to end. And we’ll exhaust all means – both in Congress and in the parliament of the streets – to end this murderous policy,” Ridon vowed.KPL logo clean version

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[25 May 2015 | No Comment | 124 views]

A party-list lawmaker representing the youth sector has called on his colleagues in the Senate to “carefully study” the pervasive issue of tuition and other school fees and not resort to “slapdash legislation” that does not truly address the root cause of the issue.

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon issued the statement Monday, referring to Sen. Sonny Angara’s Senate Bill 2228, which seeks to include payments for tertiary education tuition and other educational expenses as allowable deductions in computing taxable income.

“While we are happy that Sen. Angara has taken notice of the issue of spiraling education costs and the yearly increases in tuition and other school fees, we believe that his proposed bill will only scratch the surface and not truly address the root cause of pervasive fee increases,” Ridon said.

The youth lawmaker said that the annual tuition and other fee hikes is the result of the Commission on Higher Education’s failure to fulfill its constitutional mandate to “reasonably supervise and regulate” tertiary education.

“At the heart of the problem lies the policy of deregulating tuition and other school fees that was enshrined in Section 42 of the Education Act of 1982. This provision has been misinterpreted to mean allowing the unbridled, unhampered and arbitrary increase in school fees at the expense of the people’s constitutional right to an accessible and quality education,” Ridon said.

“The government’s current tuition regulation policy – CHED Memorandum Order 3 – is also toothless paper tiger. While the said policy lays down guidelines for proper consultations regarding fee increases, CHED has no proper mechanism to monitor compliance,” the lawmaker added.

While tax reform is also important, stricter laws to regulate tuition is needed first to effectively curb the ever-rising cost of education in the country, Ridon explained.

“Education is a constitutional right. Yet the government has, for years, failed to control the price of matriculation. In the Philippines, we strictly regulate transport fares, but not tuition. Why do we discriminate between the two, even if both are imbued with heavy public interest?” Ridon asked.

Instead of pushing for SB 2228, Ridon called on Angara and other senators to push for the passage of a counterpart bill for House Bill 698 or the “Private School Fee Regulation Act of 2013,” which aims to regulate tuition and other fees in private education institutions and create a private school fee regulatory board.

Filed in July 2013, House Bill 698 is authored by Rep. Ridon, along with Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate, and ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio. The said bill is currently under the technical working phase in the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education.

“What we need is to reintroduce strict regulation of education costs. This is a necessary step to ensure that the government can perform its duty of providing affordable and accessible education for all,” Ridon said.

Meanwhile, the youth legislator lauded Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago for initiating a probe on the recent spate of tuition and other fee increases approved by CHED. The lawmaker said that the probe should not only focus on procedural matters, but also consider how private schools earning billions in profit were able to convince CHED to approve their proposals for tuition increases.

“Both the Senate and House should exhaust all means to stop the implementation of unjust and exorbitant fee increases and that the ailing education system will not claim another victim,” Ridon concluded.KPL logo clean version