Northern Samar Rep. Paul Daza has flagged the alleged misuse of P10-billion of scholarship fund by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
But CHED chairman Prospero De Vera denied Daza’s allegations.
Speaking to ANC on Friday, Daza said the fund which was part of the Higher Education Development Fund, could have helped hundreds of thousands of university and college students yearly.
“In our last committee hearing, it came out that essentially CHED has not utilized as of 2021 report P10 billion,” Daza said.
The HEDF, which comes from travel taxes and shares from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and the Professional Regulation Commission, could have been used for students’ financial assistance, Daza said.
He noted that the dropout rate among college students was between 25 percent and 30 percent.
“The law said free tuition and dapat may living allowance para nga maka-graduate lahat. Delayed pa ang mga releases,” Daza said. “We need to really shake up CHED,” the lawmaker stressed.
Citing available records, Daza said about P2 billion in HEDF was used in 2016 for students’ financial assistance.
But when De Vera came in, only about P200 million was spent, Daza asserted.
“They’re using funds for all sorts of different programs,” Daza noted.
“It’s a combination of all. Underspending, misspending and a lot of issues raised by COA,” he added.
Daza said De Vera has to appear at the next hearing of the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education.
Daza hinted that De Vera has a lot of explaining to do, including the Commission on Audit report, the under-utilization of the funds, need to reduce dropout rates, and subsidy for poor students.
“If he can’t answer those questions well, I will be the first member to consider asking the President to maybe revamp the Commission on Higher Education,” Daza said,.
De Vera maintained, however, that the HEDF was meant to strengthen higher education, not as a scholarship fund.
“I don’t know where the idea came from that there’s a P10 billion scholarship fund,” he said in a statement.
“Based on these two laws, the CHED law and the Tourism Act of 2009, the CHED has been using the HEDF to provide grants to higher education institutions,” De Vera explained.
De Vera asserted that the HEDF is meant to strengthen higher education and it is not a scholarship fund.
Meanwhile, the Senate on approved on third and final reading Sen. Francis Escudero’s twin education measures meant to benefit hundreds of Filipino students, especially those who are facing financial challenges.
The senators unanimously voted on Senate Bill Nos. 1359 also known as the “No Permit, No Exam’ Prohibition Act,” and SB No. 1864 or the “Student Loan Payment Moratorium During Disasters and Emergencies Act.”
Escudero, chairman of the Committee on Higher, Technical and Vocational Education, thanked his colleagues for approving his two bills.
“With the approval, the bills are now a step closer to their enactment into laws for the President’s signature,” he added as the proposed legislation are now headed to the Bicameral Conference Committee.
The veteran legislator cited his co-authors in SB 1359 that included Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate President Pro-Tempore Loren Legarda, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, as well as Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Ronald Dela Rosa, Cynthia Villar, Sherwin Gatchalian, Manuel Lapid, Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, and Christopher Lawrence Go.
SB 1864, on the other hand, was authored by Escudero, Zubiri, Legarda, Villanueva, Lapid, Revilla, and Go.
SB 1359 seeks to prohibit the “no permit, no exam” practice and to disallow any policy that bars students from taking educational assessments due to unpaid financial or property obligations, such as tuition and other school fees in both public and private schools.
The approved measure also forbids schools to compel students and their parents or legal guardians to pay a portion of the outstanding financial obligation.
The schools are instead encouraged to enforce other measures such as withholding the release of diplomas or certificates, denying admission or enrolment in the succeeding school year or semester, refusing the issuance of applicable clearances, and pursuing the settlement of outstanding financial or property obligations through appropriate legal action.
On the other hand, SB 1864 provides a relief for college students from paying their financial obligations to their schools if they fall during a declaration of either a national or local state of calamity in the area where they are located.
The moratorium will be effective for the duration of the state of calamity or emergency and 30 days after the lifting of such state of calamity or emergency. During that time, no penalty or interest shall be collected on the deferred payments.