November 9, 2010
By: UP Faculty Regent Judy M. Taguiwalo
UP Staff Regent Clodualdo “Buboy” Cabrera
We stand by our students and students of other state universities and colleges in their assertion that education is a right and in their resolve to advance the struggle for such right to higher levels of militancy and assertion
THE PASSAGE LAST NIGHT BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE 2011 BUDGET WITHOUT DISCUSSIONS OF AMENDMENTS PROPOSED BY THE HOUSE LEADERSHIP SMACKS OF RAILROADING BY THE MAJORITY. REPORTS HAVE CONFIRMED THAT THE BUDGET CUT FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES AND OTHER STATE UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES REMAIN IN THE APPROVED BUDGET.
The passage of the “Reform Budget,” essentially supports the position taken by President Aquino that the P1.39 Billion budget cut for the University of the Philippines (UP) for the year 2011 is just a “small” amount.
We strongly disagree that P1.39 billion is a small amount! This massive reduction, amounting to around a fifth or twenty percent of UP’s previous budget, is anything but small. In fact, such an abrupt and indiscriminately large budget cut imperils the very capacity of the University to function as a significant government institution on the same level as it has managed to, even in the previous cash-strapped decades.
President Aquino defends this budget cut mainly by asserting that other State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) desperately need the money more than UP. But if he is as seriously concerned with the condition of the “underfunded” SUCs as he would like us to believe, why then is there also a budget reduction of the total funds allotted for all SUCs by P437 million? If some SUCs are more in need of funds than others, why wasn’t there just a reallocation of the same or higher amount for the SUCs in need? The reason for this is that this administration, in common with the catastrophic administration of Macapagal-Arroyo, intends to reduce State support for SUCs as a whole, and not just for UP. Aside from UP, among the worst affected will be the Philippine Normal University (PNU) which faces a budget cut of almost a quarter or 23.59 percent from last year. By means of these drastic cuts, Aquino wants to force UP and other SUCs to earn their keep by transforming themselves into income-generating educational enterprises. In other words, his plan is for the SUCs to shift from the business of education to pursuing education as a business.
The current administration blatantly ignores Article XIV, Section 1 of the Philippine Constitution which guarantees without equivocation that, “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels, and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.” The newly-minted UP Charter (Republic Act 9500) likewise states in no uncertain terms that, “Any plan to generate revenues and other sources from land grants and other real properties entrusted to the national university shall be consistent with the academic mission and orientation of the national university as well as protect it from undue influence and control of commercial interest.” Furthermore, it emphasizes that the “funds generated from such programs, projects or mechanism shall not be meant to replace, in part or in whole, the annual appropriations provided by the national government to the national university.”
By making SUCs compete against each other and pitting basic education against tertiary level institutions, the current administration threatens to decapitate the system of public education and unflinchingly violates the very first section on education in the fundamental law of the land. Aquino’s insistence that UP ought to further transform itself into an efficient commercial entity and wring more profits from students by raising tuition fees contradicts the previously cited provision of the UP Charter. The “solution” which Pres. Aquino proposes will not end the worsening problems of quality and access in tertiary public education but institutionalizes and makes it permanent in the form of commercialization and privatization of the SUCs. The end result of this will simply be to make tertiary education all but inaccessible to the more numerous and less privileged strata of Philippine society. It is a fact, that the social cost of the continuing neglect of tertiary level education in the Philippines is already evident in the increasingly exclusive nature of tertiary education even in public tertiary level institutions.
Pres. Aquino’s folksy metaphor to the effect that, “those who can swim [like UP] can be expected to reach the shore. Those who may yet drown [the other SUCs] should be thrown life savers,” is simply inappropriate. In the first place, many SUCs are drowning, not due to any of their own intrinsic shortcomings as educational institutions, but mainly due to decades of incredible government apathy. The same hand which intentionally pushed these struggling institutions into the water, now proposes to throw some life-vests to a selected few. The majority of the SUCs may eventually succumb to the waves, but not without taking to the bottomless bottom of government neglect all the hopes of poor Filipino students of ever obtaining college degrees.
How can Pres. Aquino claim to offer change with one hand while hollowing out the nation’s educational institutions, the fundamental source of any nation’s progress, with the other? Even as the “Reform Budget” undermines all reform, all the frenzied rhetoric of change turns out to lead to just more of the same.
We strongly protest the P1.39 billion cut in the 2011 budget for UP and the budget cut in the allocation of other state universities and colleges. We stand by our students and the students of other state universities and colleges in their assertion that education is a right and in their resolve to advance the struggle for such right “to higher levels of militancy and assertion”.