Senators nix budget cuts for state schools due to student protests

Published November 18, 2020, 3:54 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate will not favor any proposal to defund state universities and colleges (SUC) just because students are protesting against the government.

Senate Ralph Recto (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said Wednesday that this was the consensus among senators about President Duterte’s threat to stop funding the University of the Philippines (UP) and other SUCs over calls for academic strike to the government’s disaster response.

“In so far as the Senate is concerned, the unanimous consensus is that SUCs are no-cut zones, in so far as their NEP (National Expenditure Program) budget is concerned. They have been vaccinated against budget cuts,” Recto said in a statement.

Recto said no SUC should suffer a budget cut, saying that their allocations should instead be increased.

“Calls for academic freeze will not be met with a funding brake. The correct response is not to defund any, but to increase the funds of as many as possible,” the Senate leader said.

“The PGH (Philippine General Hospital), a unit of UP, for example, deserves an increase, and this pambansang ospital (national hospital) shall get it. It’s equipment lack is a pre-existing affliction which must be cured, pandemic or not.”

“And so do the state colleges training our future doctors,” he continued.

The Senate earlier forwarded for plenary amendments and approval the proposed 2021 budgets of SUCs except for the UP system, which senators have yet to interpellate on.

The Senate finance committee proposed an increase of P3.046 billion to the budget of SUCs.

Senator Pia Cayetano, Senate finance committee vice chair and sponsor of the SUC budget for 2021, said the UP and PGH “played a big role in the management of COVID[-19].”

Prior to President Duterte’s threat, his spokesman Harry Roque brought up brought up during their recorded meeting Tuesday the academic strike of the Ateneo students. Roque called the students as “crazy” for refusing to go to school until the government has given aid to the typhoon victims.

“Sir, ‘yong mga estudyante na loko-loko na ayaw pumasok nagpoprotesta. Hindi raw sila magsa-submit ng academic requirements hangga’t hindi natutulungan ang biktima ng typhoon (Sir, the crazy students who refuse to go to school are protesting. They won’t submit the academic requirements until the typhoon victims are given assistance)” Roque reported.

“Sige, iyong mga eskwelahan (Okay, those schools), UP? Fine. Maghinto kayo ng aral (Stop your studies). I will stop the funding,” Duterte then reacted.