Bam: Free tuition not license to prevent student protests

Sen. Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino stressed that free college education should not be used as a means to prevent students from protesting against state policies. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

Bam: Free tuition not license to prevent student protests
Audrey Morallo (Philstar.com) - February 6, 2018 - 4:23pm

MANILA, Philippines — The government should not use free education at the tertiary level as a means to prevent students from expressing dissent and protesting, Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino said on Tuesday.

Aquino, one of the authors of Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, said that the administration should not use the law to gain political loyalty from students following massive protests at the University of the Philippines over state policies.

“Free college education does not require anything in return. The government should not limit the rights of students in exchange for free university and college education,” Aquino said.

The minority senator said that the money used to finance the free studies of students was a form of benefit for the Filipino people and should not be used for blackmail or as “hush money.”

He stressed that students in state universities and colleges must not surrender their right to speak and dissent just to enjoy free tertiary education.

“We commend the Filipino youth who continue working for a cause, speaking up and speaking out against policies that are counter to their values and beliefs,”

President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to remove protesting students from the University of the Philippines after they walked out of their classes on Thursday to join the National Day of Walkout Against Tyranny and Dictatorship organized by progressive groups to criticize the administration’s assault on democratic institutions.

The president, speaking before indigenous peoples, said that he would give the slots of the students to bright local youth who would not waste public funds.

Sens. Richard Gordon and Sherwin Gatchalian agreed with the chief executive and urged the students to study first and be responsible in their expression of dissent.

Gordon said that the president was just advising the young people in a “very stern way” while Gatchalian underscored that their primary responsibility was to finish their studies to join the ranks of productive citizens.

UP students however remained unfazed and and emphasized that Duterte would not strip them of their right to study at the country’s national university.

A political party in the school said that a planned bigger protest on the campus would push through on February 23.

Kabataan party-list, a militant youth group, slammed Duterte for offering Lumad students slots in the country’s premier university despite his threat last year to bomb their schools.

The group also mocked the free education offered by the government and insisted that many students still suffered from “skyrocketing costs of tuition and other school fees,” claiming this was causing growing discontent and rage among the youth.

Aquino said that he was confident that Filipino students would be responsible enough to know their limitations and if their actions were already affecting their studies.

“I am confident that our students are responsible enough. They will not allow their expression of their sentiments to affect their studies,” Aquino said in allaying fears that students were wasting state money in their demonstrations.

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