MANILA –Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday expressed confidence that the bill seeking free tuition fees in all state universities and colleges (SUCs) will be passed despite the recent Senate reorganization.
The Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture used to be chaired by Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV before he was ousted and replaced by Sen. Francis Escudero.
Aquino among other senators belonging to the Liberal Party –Leila de Lima, Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan –also transferred from the majority bloc to the minority.
He is also principal sponsor of Senate Bill No. 1304 or the “Free Higher Education for All Act”, which is currently being tackled in the plenary. Gatchalian is co-sponsor.
“The Free Higher Education for All Act continues to enjoy widespread support among senators, including our colleagues from the newly-formed Senate minority,” Gatchalian, the Committee’s Vice-Chairman, said.
“I am optimistic that we will be able to put our political differences aside and continue to provide unified support for this important higher educational reform,” he added.
Like Aquino, Gatchalian argued that the bill is not anti-poor as it would significantly improve the financial position of working-class households which struggle to cope with the high cost of tertiary education.
Gatchalian said that by giving working-class households an opportunity to increase household savings, the policy would protect near-poor and low-income households from economic shocks.
“By lessening the burden of educational costs on working-class households, we are giving them the chance to build a more prosperous future for themselves and their loved ones, Gatchalian said.
“This is in line with the country’s long-term socioeconomic goal of building a strong middle-income society. Anyone who characterizes this advocacy as ‘anti-poor’ is obviously out-of-touch with the needs of the average Filipino,” he added.