“Our right to education is non-negotiable. We reject all forms of conditionalities that will obstruct the path in having a free public education in all levels for every Filipino youth.”
This is the statement of League of Filipino Students (LFS) National Spokesperson JP Rosos on Monday morning as they lead a protest in the University of the Philippines-Diliman. After a short program in the historic Palma Hall Lobby, the students marched to the Commission on Higher Education.
“For decades, Filipino students have been fighting against tuition increases and other school fees. Having a free tuition in public tertiary education institutions is a welcomed development. But it is infuriating that President Rodrigo Duterte has vetoed such progress,” said Rosos.
“President Duterte is dead wrong when he said that free tuition in state universities and colleges should not be available to all undergraduate students! It is unacceptable that the highest official in the land does not want our rights to be realized,” Rosos added.
Rosos noted that their group rejected the idea that free tuition must be subjected to conditional implementation. According to the youth leader, since education is a right of every Filipino, there should no be conditions on who can avail free tuition.
“Free tuition is only the first step in realizing the youth’s aspiration for a free public education for all. But it is unacceptable that the regime is already blocking the path to such aspiration,” said Rosos.
Rosos pointed out that having conditions in the enactment of free tuition is no different from the socialized tuition system (STS) being implemented in the University of the Philippines.
“Duterte’s conditions that students who can afford tertiary education must pay and those who are poor but academically inclined are the only ones subsidized is the same premise of UP’s STS. But it cannot fool us. We have seen how such premise translates to tuition increases and imposition of other school fees,” Rosos said.
Rosos noted that since the implementation of STS, the average tuition in UP has gone up to 1,500 pesos per unit as those with full subsidy are decreasing yearly. The youth leader added that such scheme should not be implemented nationwide under the guise of conditional free tuition.
“It seems that instead of providing education, the Duterte regime planned to use the conditional free tuition as a means to further commercialized and privatized education. Duterte’s conditional free tuition is an affront to our right to education,” said Rosos.
“We challenge President Duterte. If he is really pro-students and pro-people, then he should allow the blanket implementation of free tuition. If he really believes that education is a right, then he should junk the neoliberal policies that attacks such rights. Among these policies are the Education Act of 1982 and the K to 12 program, which paved the way for relentless tuition increases and imposition of other school fees,” Rosos added.
Rosos warned of bigger protests in the upcoming months. He invited all students from all walks of life to join their campaign and stand for their right to education. ###