‘Anti-poor’

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    As if it is not enough that majority of the Filipinos are living below poverty line. Now no less than the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the DILG are prohibiting local government units from establishing their own colleges or universities. Yes, the agreement was recently sealed by CHED Chairman Dr. Emmanuel Angeles who happens to be the founder and owner of the Angeles University Foundation (AUF).

    Of course the local government units raised a howl on this one. In a statement of the City of San Fernando said, “With this moratorium, the CHED and the DILG will only limit the options of our people in seeking the fulfillment of this dream. This is not the CHED’s mission. Nor is it the DILG’s.”

    Very well said. In the words of PGKM Chairman Ruperto Cruz, the agreement is even “anti-poor.” Cruz added that CHED should not betray its own mandate and purpose. He added that Angeles should not openly betray the noble intentions of the LGUs in putting up their own colleges for the welfare of the marginalized sector.

    It will definitely deprive poor families of the opportunity to send their children to college since they could not afford to pay tuition fees in private schools like AUF, Assumption University (AU) or Holy Angel University (HAU). In most of these colleges and universities, the tuition fee averages from 15,000 to 40,000 per semester depending on the course and level.

    Based on the survey of the National Statistic Coordination Board (NSCB) last year, a family of six needs at least P749 per day to sustain its basic necessities for food, utilities and other commodities alone.  At present, laborers in Central Luzon receive an average of P158 to P287 per day while Workers Alliance for Region (WAR) 3 claims that almost half of the 3.4 million workers nationwide are underpaid.

    So how in the world could an average labor-based family afford to send their children to private colleges and universities with their measly earnings? They only have enough to feed their family and provide them their basic needs. Education is another expense.

    Their only saving grace is to avail of the free amenities and programs of the local government units in the community colleges or educational institutions. One good example is the Municipality of Mabalacat. Mayor Marino “Boking” Morales recently announced that the Mabalacat College will be opened this year while thousands of indigent and poor families are lined-up to include their children on the list of enrollees.

    But no, stop there. Thanks to Dr. Angeles, this might be deferred because of the moratorium. Instead of helping the local governments address the growing concern on education and provide assistance in assuring the quality of higher education, CHED is even clipping the opportunities for the poor.

    What is worse than CHED being an “anti-poor” agency is the clear conflict of interest seen in the “intent” of the CHED chairman. Being a popular owner and co-founder of AUF, of course everyone will question the intention of Angeles in coming up with such unfair policy.

    By prohibiting LGUs from establishing community colleges, Angeles is assured that the people have no choice but to send their children to private colleges like AUF.

    The LGU leaders are right in opposing this CHED-DILG agreement. They should not stop from issuing strong statements on this. It would help if they sign a joint manifesto opposing such policy and directly send to Malacanang to immediately catch the attention of President Arroyo.

    Cruz said he gave Angeles the benefit of the doubt when he was appointed CHED chairman considering his numerous blunders and alleged inefficiency during his term as Clark Development Corp. president. But Angeles, Cruz said, only showed consistency in his reputation as “anti-poor.” Remember SM City Clark? PGKM and other local traders opposed its establishment inside the ecozone because it will ignite unfair competition while killing the local players in the process. But Angeles, then president of CDC, made sure the SM City Clark will be built under his term. Today, PGKM and other local traders were indeed vindicated in their claim. Hundreds lost jobs while local traders experienced downfall in their sales since SM City Clark was put up. Others closed shop. Try visting Jenra Mall in Angeles and Dau PX Mart. These places were no longer as lively as they were before. Thanks to Angeles and Henry Sy.

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