MANILA — Following the unanimous support of the Senate to his call for the full and immediate implementation of the free college law at the start of the second semester of school year 2017-2018, Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino on Tuesday called on state universities and colleges (SUCs) to refund the fees they have collected from students for the said school term.
Republic Act 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, provides free tuition and miscellaneous fees to students in SUCs, local universities and colleges (LUCs) and vocational schools run by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
It was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte on August 3, 2017.
Aquino, the law’s principal sponsor and co-author in the Senate, noted that some SUCs have already complied with the law and stopped collecting tuition and other fees from students for the ongoing semester.
“However, there were some schools which continue to do so despite the law’s enactment, possibly due to lack of funds. Sa mga nangolekta na, ang gusto natin ay i-refund ang ibinayad ng mga estudyante at kanilang pamilya (For those who have collected fees, we want them to refund the amount paid by the students and their families),” the lawmaker said in a radio interview.
The senator likewise renewed his call for the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to fully implement RA 10931, saying Filipino families need it more than ever, especially amid the rising prices in goods and services due to the passage of the tax reform law.
“Kung tutulong tayo, huwag nang magtimpi. Lubus-lubusin na ang tulong, ipatupad na ang libreng tuition at miscellaneous fees (If we are to help, let’s give our all. Let’s do it all the way. Implement the law on free tuition and miscellaneous fees),” Aquino said.
The Senate, on Monday, unanimously adopted Aquino’s Senate Resolution No. 620 calling for the full and immediate implementation of RA 10931 in the second semester of school year 2017-18.
In demanding for its immediate implementation, Aquino noted that even during the bicameral conference committee on RA 10931, representatives from both Chambers of Congress have agreed on the legislative intent to implement the law by November 2017.
He likewise pointed out that during the budget deliberations for RA 10931, the CHED-UNIFAST declared to the members of the Senate that the PHP 41 billion budget allocation for the free college law was sufficient to cover the tuition and other fees in SUCs starting second semester of 2017-18 up to school year 2018-19.
The commitment was contrary to the latest statement by CHED officer-in-charge Prospero de Vera, who said that the agency plans to fully implement the law stating June 2018 as CHED is still in the process of finalizing the law’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR).
Aquino, however, expressed belief that even while waiting for the IRR, there’s still no reason for CHED not to attend to its immediate implementation as RA 10931 is already in effect and has sufficient budget to support its execution.