UP Diliman students jump for joy after the free tuition
bill was signed into law. Photo: INQ—Niño Jesus Orbeta
President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a bill that grants free
tuition to students in state-run colleges and universities. Called the
Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act of 2017, the new law,
Republic Act (RA) No. 10931, left it to lawmakers and government
executives to figure out a way to fund it, for the 2018-2019 school
While the new law has received widespread acclaim from students and the
public in general, there were those who cautioned against it such as:
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary
Ernesto Pernia, and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
Signing this bill into law might just be Duterte playing to his base.
After all, who is against college education for everyone? He may have
seen it as a way to enshrine his legacy as the president who cared most
about the youth. And in addition, should Duterte later decide to remain
in power beyond his six-year term, he can point to this law as evidence
that he has only the country’s best interest at heart.
Duterte, who appears to be a shoot-from-the-hip type of person should
have listened to his economic advisers and worked with congress to
improve the bill to make it more cost effective and help only those who
really need the help. As the bill he signed in to law last Thursday
stands, all students enrolled in state-run colleges and universities
will receive a free education. However, many students enrolled in the
University of the Philippines (UP) for example, are not poor or needy. Many
graduated from elite private high schools that charge exorbitant tuition
fees. Those students will also now benefit from “Juan dela Cruz” paying
for their entire tuition—even while other important government programs
suffer from lack of funds.
if this new and expensive law is improperly managed, it can even do more
harm than good. Duterte should have taken his cue from Henry Sy’s SM
scholarship program which provides college scholarships only to students
who graduate from a public high school, because those are the students
who truly need the public’s help in completing their tertiary or college
we’ll see where this all takes us. As many of our regular readers know
by now, we are no fans of President Duterte. We see him as a
manipulative, vengeful, and uncouth individual—a mini “Donald-Trump” of
the Philippines if you will. But we wish him success here, and hope that
he can first fix and then implement this law properly and fairly. We
must all remember that a country’s greatest asset is its youth. So good
luck Mr. President…we’ll be closely watching you on this one.