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Diokno advised Duterte to veto bill on free tuition in SUCs

MANILA, Aug. 2 — Insisting that the government could not afford to provide free tuition for state universities and colleges (SUCs), Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno has advised President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the Congress’ Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon made this confirmation Wednesday a day after President Duterte summoned him and other lawmakers to a meeting on Tuesday (August 1).

“…As expected, Secretary Diokno objected to the approval of the President and strongly recommended a veto and was pushing for a full implementation instead of the UniFAST law,” Drilon told reporters in an interview.

The UniFAST Act of 2015 or Republic Act 10687, authored by Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, mandates the government to put up a system and create a body that would oversee and harmonize all student financial assistance programs for a more sustained granting of scholarship programs.

Despite Diokno’s recommendation, Drilon said that he is still hopeful that he will consider the views of the Senate that has strongly pushed for the passage of the measure.

“I’m sure he will consider the views of the Senators present and the opposition of Secretary Diokno. At the end of the day, that’s the burden of leadership, we hope that the President will approve this bill,” Drilon said.

He said that it will still be up to the President to decide whether to veto the bill or approve it.

“There’s a possibility that it can be vetoed, there is a possibility that it can be approved. The President just listen to all the arguments and he will decide on it,” he added.

Angara, for his part, said that he will refile a “leaner” version of the bill if it gets vetoed by the President. Veto applies to an appropriation measure

“If the president vetoes the measure which I still hope he won’t, we will surely re-file a version purged of what the executive branch saw as the objectionable provisions,” Angara said.

The bill subsidizing the education of students in SUCs, local tertiary schools and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority accredited institutions has already been approved and ratified by the Senate and House of Representatives and is just awaiting President Duterte’s signature.

It will lapse into law on Aug. 5 unless vetoed by the President.

If passed into law, students will start to enjoy free education starting the second semester of school year 2017 to 2018. Aside from tuition fees, the government will also shoulder miscellaneous and other fees.

Under the law, scholarship grants will also be made available to students of both public and private college and universities. It also provides a loan program, where students can apply for financing for other education expenses. (Azer N. Parrocha/PNA)

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