By: Ernie Reyes, InterAksyon.com November 21, 2013 6:04 PM
Malacañang was urged to adopt “tens of thousands” of college scholars “orphaned” by a Supreme Court ruling that rendered the pork barrel—which pays for their schooling—unconstitutional.
Senator Ralph Recto made this appeal on Thursday, adding that a mechanism should be established to ensure that “no disruption” in their education should take place.
“A mechanism should be put in place to ensure that there will be no disruption in the schooling of students whose tuition and other school fees are bankrolled by the funding scheme ordered void by a 14-0 High Court vote,” Recto said.
The Palace can begin by issuing a “comfort statement” that “no student will be left behind” as the pork barrel—more formally known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund—exits from the budget menu.
“This can be done through a presidential directive to state universities and colleges (SUCs) to continue accepting PDAF supported students. That should be the first step,” he said.
After that, the government should create a funding mechanism for college scholarships which will be compliant with the Supreme Court decision.
“For the 2014 requirements, what Congress can do is augment the individual budget of the 114 SUCs, to include an expanded scholarship program that will not only address the tuition of PDAF-supported students but new entrants as well,” he said.
This concern is already addressed by Sen. Francis Escudero’s “commendable” proposed amendment in the 2014 budget, which seeks to funnel P2.5 billion for scholarship slots in all SUCs.
The 114 SUCs have a proposed combined budget of P36.8 billion for 2014, up from this year’s 34.9 billion.
In managing the scholarship fund, Recto said the SUCs must be completely autonomous in selecting scholars, using admission standards that they themselves will prescribe.
Without a safety net for PDAF-funded college students, at least “150,000 college students” are in danger of losing their scholarship, Recto warned.
This number, he said, is bigger than the 118,819 people displaced by the Moro rebel siege of Zamboanga City last August.
The number could even be higher, Recto said, “as there are estimates placing the number of PDAF-funded scholarship slots at 400,000.”
If true, this forms a sizeable chunk of the estimated 1.2 million students enrolled in 114 SUCs, Recto noted.
The figure excludes enrollees in 56 technical-vocational schools run by TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority), most of which offer tertiary courses, he added.