Press Release
February 13, 2018

Senate calls for immediate implementation of free tuition for SUCs

The Senate yesterday unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the immediate implementation of Republic Act 10931, or the "Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA)," which institutionalized free tuition in state universities and colleges (SUCs) nationwide. Senate Resolution No. 620, sponsored and authored by Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, called on government to start implementing RA 10931, "by administering and affording the students free tuition and other school fees at the start of the second semester of academic year 2017-2018." Apart from Aquino, the resolution was co-authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, as well as Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Nancy Binay, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Francis Escudero, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan II, Risa Hontiveros, Loren Legarda, Manny Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, Antonio Trillanes IV, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

According to the resolution, given that RA 10931, which was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte last August 3, 2017, is now in effect and has an approved budget to support its programs, "there is no reason for the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) not to attend to its immediate implementation." The Senate's adoption of the resolution came after newly- appointed CHED officer-in -charge (OIC) Prospero De Vera said that CHED would aim to fully implement the provision of the free tuition and other school fees starting June 2018 for academic year 2018-2019, as the commission "is still in the process of finalizing the law's implementing rules and regulations."

"The government is duty-bound to enforce the provisions of the law, which should benefit the students whose hope lies in quality, accessible and free tertiary education in order to have a suitable employment to uplift their living conditions," the resolution said.

According to the resolution, RA 10931 effectively became a law in August 18, 2017 or 15 days after its publication in the Official Gazette. In relation, Congress had already included P8 billion in the General Appropriations Act of 2017 to fund free tuition and P41 billion to fund the provisions of the UAQTEA.

"During the meeting of the bicameral conference committee on IAQTEA, members of the Senate and the House of Representative panels expressly agreed on the legislative intent to implement the measure by November 2017 or by the second semester of the academic year 2017-2018," the resolution said.

The resolution also noted that the CHED's recent pronouncements ran counter to earlier declarations made by the agency to the Senate during budget deliberations, where they said that existing budgetary allocations were sufficient to cover tuition and other fees "starting second semester of academic year 2017-2018."

"While it is true that the power to adopt the implementing rules and regulations lies in the Executive, the non-issuance of the implementing rules does not automatically prevent the Executive from ensuring that the laws be faithfully executed," the resolution said.

"The express provision on the issuance of implementing rules and regulations does not delegate legislative powers to the Executive," the resolution added.

The resolution noted that RA 10931 itself contains a provision that "quality education is an inalienable right of all Filipinos, and it is the policy of the State to protect and promote the rights of all students to quality education at all levels."

In his sponsorship speech, Aquino stressed that the law has been passed and sufficiently funded.

"When will our students and their families experience the financial relief of a free college education? CHED says tomorrow. But we say, yesterday! Dapat napatupad na ang libreng kolehiyo," said Aquino. (JC)

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