Hapless students from all over the country will get smacked with double jeopardy if Congress doesn't find a way to restore the P3.6-billion budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for its Tulong Dunong scholarship program.
Thus said Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez Wednesday as he implored the House Committee on Appropriations to convince the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to restore the allocation in time for the current school year.
"We should join hands together to be able to convince the DBM to restore the Tulong Dulong," he said during the House panel's deliberation on CHEd's proposed budget for 2021.
Through Tulong Dunong, students chosen by local officials, including House members, are granted a P12,000 annual financial assistance. This covers students from both public and private colleges or universities.
Rodriguez noted that the program, which gained zero appropriation under the current 2020 national budget, is needed more than ever because of the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Ma-double jeopardy 'yung mga bata who applied with us (The kids who have applied with us for this will suffer from double-jeopardy). Their parents have no more jobs, and then we can't help them through Tulong Dunong to be able to start their studies in college," he said.
The Mindanaoan said that in his district alone, there are 317 applicants "praying and waiting" for this aid.
"We cannot afford to make that be part of (the) 2021 (budget). We need it for 2020 (school year), Mr. Chairman," he stressed.
CHED Chairman Prospero "Popoy" De Vera said the total discontinuance for Tulong Dunong this year was P3.6 billion.
"What has CHED done? In January, I asked for it but it was not released. I wrote again, and in April the DBM wrote me a letter saying it is discontinued," De Vera told the panel. He said he once again reached out to the DBM last month, but to no avail.
Rodriguez thanked the CHED chairman for taking up the cudgels for the less fortunate Filipino students.
"The DBM should not deny us this request. They (students) will be deprived of the support that they need at this time."