Press Release
November 21, 2013

'PDAF scrapping could displace 150,000 scholars'

Malacanang should immediately adopt the "tens of thousands" of college scholars orphaned by the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Priority Development Assistance Fund as unconstitutional , Sen. Ralph Recto said today.

Recto said a mechanism should be put in place to ensure that there will be no disruption in the schooling of students whose tuition and other school fees are bankrolled by the funding scheme ordered void by a 14-0 High Court vote.

The Palace, Recto said, can begin with a "comfort statement" that "no student will be left behind" as PDAF exits from the budget menu.

"This can be done through a presidential directive to state universities and colleges (SUCs) to continue accepting PDAF-supported students. That should be the first step," he said.

Next, according to Recto, is to create a funding mechanism for college scholarships which will be compliant with the Supreme Court decision.

"For the 2014 requirements, what Congress can do is augment the individual budget of the 114 SUCs, to include an expanded scholarship program that will not only address the tuition of PDAF-supported students but new entrants as well," he said.

This, he said, is already addressed by Sen. Francis Escudero's "commendable" proposed amendment in the 2014 budget, which seeks to funnel P2.5 billion for scholarship slots in all SUCs.

The 114 SUCs have a proposed combined budget of P36.8 billion for 2014, up from this year's 34.9 billion.

In administering the scholarship fund, Recto said the SUCs must be completely autonomous in selecting scholars, using admission standards they will themselves prescribe.

"This is not about retaining pork. This is about retaining students in school, " Recto said.

Without a safety net for PDAF-funded college students, at least "150,000 college students" are in danger of losing their scholarship, Recto warned.

This number, he said, is bigger than the 118,819 people displaced by the Moro rebel siege of Zamboanga City last August.

The number could even be higher, Recto said, "as there are estimates placing the number of PDAF-funded scholarship slots at 400,000."

If true, this forms a sizeable chunk of the estimated 1.2 million students enrolled in 114 SUCs, Recto noted.

This, however, does not include enrollees in 56 technical-vocational schools run by TESDA, most of which offer tertiary courses, he added.

"If we don't fill the void, we are creating a new class of displaced people," Recto said.

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