[27 Nov 2014 | No Comment | 34 views]

In a span of just four years, the country’s 110 state universities and colleges (SUCs) were able to collect a whopping P13.5 billion from “other school fees” (OSFs) or fees that students pay apart from tuition.

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[25 Nov 2014 | No Comment | 234 views]

Ridon submits affidavit in support of raps against Licuanan et al

The administrative and criminal charges filed against Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chair Patricia Licuanan and several other CHED officials in the Office of the Ombudsman last June have started rolling, with a preliminary investigation underway and the complainants submitting additional information to support their complaint.

Youth and student leaders led by RISE FOR EDUCATION Convenor and National Union of Students of the Philippines President Sarah Elago submitted a 37-page position paper at the Office of the Ombudsman this afternoon to dispute the claims made by accused CHED officials in their counter-affidavit.

“The Office of the Ombudsman required us to submit a position paper to counter the claims made by accused CHED officials. In this position paper, we included more details on how CHED’s actions constitute a grave injury on our part. Our lawyers explain that once all the submissions have been studied by the Ombudsman, a decision will be promulgated soon,” Elago said.

In their position paper, the complainants reasserted that CHED officials should be found:

  1. Criminally liable for gross neglect of duty due to their patent violation of R.A. 3019 otherwise known as “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” particularly Sections 3(e) and 3(f);
  2. Criminally liable for gross incompetence for their patent violation of Section 4(a) and 4(b) of Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees;
  3. Administratively liable for respondent CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan for gross inefficiency for her patent violation of Section 7 of RA 9485 or the Anti-Red Tape Act;
  4. Administratively liable for gross inefficiency for violation of Section 8(b) of RA 9485;
  5. Administratively liable for violating Rule X of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 6713, particularly the following Rule X(j), (k), and (l);
  6. Liable to pay complainants the amount of P10,000-P15,000 each to complainants Sudaria and Deang as actual damages.

Today’s submission is in connection with the combined administrative and criminal complaint docketed as OMB-C-A-14-0179 (Inefficiency and Incompetence, Violation of Sec. 4(a) and (b), R.A. 6713) and OMB-C-C-14-0208 Violation of Sec. 3(e) and (f), R.A. 3019 and R.A. 9485) against several CHED officials for“gross incompetence, gross inefficiency, and gross neglect of duty” filed by several youth and student leaders last June 13.

In their 61-page complaint-affidavit filed over five months ago, the petitioners explained that the case “springs from CHED’s wholesale failure to perform its constitutional mandate to exercise reasonable supervision and regulation of educational institutions  due to the commission’s gross inexcusable incompetence, inefficiency, and negligence in handling several complaints filed by students against tuition increase proposals for academic year 2014-2015.”

Meanwhile, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon has similarly filed an affidavit in support of the complaint filed by the student groups.

In his affidavit which was also filed today, Ridon disputed CHED’s argument that his attendance to several meetings on tuition increases justify CHED’s actions on the tuition complaints.

“While I am not party to the case filed by student and youth leaders against several officials of the CHED, it has come to my attention that the said CHED officials used as justification for their actions my supposed presence in several meetings held in CHED and in the House of Representatives as regards the issue of tuition increases,” Ridon stated in the affidavit.

“CHED officials cannot also use my attendance on several committee hearings on the matter as justification for their actions, as in my official capacity as legislator and representative of the youth sector, I have always been critical of CHED Memorandum Order No. 3-2012,” Ridon added.Junk All Other School Fees Logo

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[25 Nov 2014 | No Comment | 145 views]

An alliance of student councils, campus publications, and youth organizations filed a letter-complaint to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) today to call for the scrapping of “other school fees,” which the group tagged as “one of the barriers to accessible and affordable education for Filipino students.”

In an 8-page letter-complaint filed at the Office of CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan this afternoon, RISE FOR EDUCATION (R4E) Alliance listed down several fees that are currently being collected by majority of tertiary schools in the Philippines on top of tuition.

“On top of the already burdensome tuition, other school fees such as development fee, energy fee, miscellaneous fee, athletics fee, cultural fee, examination fee, internet fee, late payment fee, registration fee, photocopy fee, among others, form a large chunk of what students and their families pay per academic year term,” the group said in their complaint.

According to data compiled by R4E, other school fees (OSFs) range from several hundreds of pesos up to P3,000. When combined, OSFs almost equal or at certain time even surpass the cost of tuition.

“Most of these fees are questionable, exorbitant, redundant and dubious, revealing a great deceit to students and parents. School expenses that should have already been covered by tuition are being passed on to students through charging of OSFs,” the group explained.

R4E National Convenor and National Union of Student of the Philippines (NUSP) President Sarah Elago explained that tuition should already cover the cost of instruction.

“As such, collecting OSFs is just a profitable racket for schools. When coupled with annual tuition increases, these twin burdens make education truly inaccessible for the vast majority of Filipino students and their families,” Elago maintained.

Elago added that while CHED “should supposedly have the power to regulate OSFs,” almost all other school fees remain unmonitored.

“School owners have abused the government’s reluctance to regulate school fees to charge these dubious OSFs. The government is thus equally accountable for propagating this system of deregulation that has led to the burgeoning cost of education,” she explained.

R4E urged CHED to “scrap all other school fees” and investigate the fees currently collected by both private and public tertiary schools for being “redundant, exorbitant, and dubious.”

R4E is a campaign alliance led by student councils, publications, school and community-based youth organizations with public servants, parents’ organizations, members of the academe, and other education advocates, all working together to defend and uphold the right to quality and accessible education.Junk All Other School Fees Logo

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[25 Nov 2014 | No Comment | 115 views]

As the Supreme Court resumes the oral arguments on the assailed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) this afternoon, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said that having senators in the list of petitioners against the agreement is “immaterial” to the case.

“Whether or not there are senators as petitioners is irrelevant to the EDCA proceedings. In fact, they cannot even be expected to stand as petitioners because the Senate itself has stood down in its constitutional prerogative to firstly determine whether the EDCA is a treaty necessitating their concurrence,” said Ridon, who is one of the petitioners in the case that is questioning EDCA’s constitutionality.

“The constitutional challenge is precisely submitted to compel the Senate to exercise its constitutional discretion on agreements like EDCA. The determination on whether such agreement is a mere executive agreement or a fullblown treaty is something clearly within the power of the Supreme Court,” he added.

The lawmaker said that apart from the determination of whether EDCA is an executive agreement or a treaty, there are also other “substantive arguments” on the agreement’s constitutionality that will stand ground.

“EDCA bastardizes not only our nation’s sovereignty but also the Constitution. The SC should not act like Pontius Pilate and wash its hands on the issue by passing the ball to the Senate without first ruling on all substantive arguments against the agreement,” Ridon concluded.

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[25 Nov 2014 | No Comment | 131 views]

Crony politics?

Malacanang has lost its cool over snowballing criticisms on its decision to order a rebidding of the Cavite-Laguna Expressway project.

In an article in GMA News Online, Sec. Edwin Lacierda  said,  “I cannot comment on someone who speaks out of ignorance. How does one argue with someone whose business knowledge is limited to destroying capitalism.”
This was in response to Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon’s claims that the Calax rebid was a political payback for the support of San Miguel Corporation and Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco during the Mr. Aquino’s 2010 presidential campaign.
“I think the greater ignoramuses of the day are those that fail to remember that crony politics and capitalism are among those that destroyed the Marcos economy then. This is the same politics that Mr Aquino is playing with the Calax rebid,” Ridon said, commenting on Lacierda’s unresponsive statement to criticisms.
Ridon, a lawyer by profession who sits in both committees on public works and transportation, further said that the Palace is opening itself to an insurmountable legal challenge by ordering the rebid.
“Not only can the winning bidder question the Palace decision, but I’m sure even the farming communities affected by the project will soon challenge this in court. It is not in their collective interest for their agricultural lands to be soon converted into concrete pavements while they receive paltry sums from expropriation.”

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[24 Nov 2014 | No Comment | 84 views]

Solon asks: Where did SK funds go?

A lawmaker representing the youth sector hit the “railroaded passage” on second reading of House Bill 5209 this afternoon, saying that the move may be motivated by the ruling party’s need for campaign funds in the upcoming presidential elections.

HB 5209 seeks to again postpone the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections originally slated this February.

“The House majority is adamant on passing another SK elections postponement law as quick as possible. Yet one question remains unanswered: The SK is technically non-existent for over a year now, so where did these billions of pesos go?” Ridon asked.

“We’re asking this very relevant question because the Aquino administration and the Liberal Party is at the verge of again successfully postponing the SK elections this February,” he explained.

The youth solon slammed the passage HB 5209 on second reading, saying that the move may have been “orchestrated by the ruling Liberal Party to take advantage of the vacuum left by the absence of local youth councils to build muscle at the local level” in preparation for the 2016 presidential elections.

“It’s becoming apparent that this is not an issue of amending the law governing the SK, or improving the SK for that matter. This is a matter of obtaining more funds for the LP war chest,” Ridon remarked.

The Local Government Code provides that ten percent of total annual internal revenue allotment (IRA) of the barangay should automatically go to the SK. This translates to a total of more than P6 billion from the IRA of some 42,000 barangays in the country.

Ridon has earlier disclosed that Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Sec. Mar Roxas and the ruling Liberal Party are using the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 10632 to gain political leverage at the local level in preparation for the upcoming presidential polls.

Republic Act No. 10632, which was signed into law on October 3, 2013, effectively postponed the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections originally slated on October 28 that year.

While RA 10632 also prohibited the appointment of new SK officers, the IRR of the said law created the “Task Force on Youth Development” in lieu of the SK. The said task force is empowered to formulate a “youth development plan and budget” and access the 10-percent SK allocation from the annual IRA of the barangay.

The youth lawmaker said that there are already reports that DILG Sec. Mar Roxas has instructed barangay councils to appoint members of the said task force who will agree to be part of the Liberal Party, and to formulate youth programs that would promote Roxas and his party mates in the upcoming national elections.

“If we read between the lines, we can say that the Aquino administration might be supporting the SK election postponement to give more funds to local officials in preparation for the presidential polls. They have done it before, and they’re at it again,” Ridon said.