After uniting that impeachment trials should continue, lawmakers will now challenge the Aquino administration on its 2011 budget proposal for state universities and colleges (SUC) in a press conference at the House of Representatives.

A total of 30 House members from the majority, minority and progressive partylist yesterday joined together to express their stand against the impending spate of budget cuts for SUCs holding on to the conviction that education is a right.

“We believe that higher education, in particular, is not merely a vehicle for private career development, but an instrument of social change. Higher education serves a public and social purpose. Contrary to neoliberal dictates, it is a public good, and thus, should not be left alone and vulnerable to free market forces and commercial interests,” said the solons.

“Granted such premise, we affirm the idea that education, at all levels, is a right of everyone and a non-negotiable function of the State. It is imperative for the government to provide higher education to its citizens, and thus maintain and improve upon the quality and accessibility of higher education in public institutions.”

The lawmakers signed a giant manifesto of unity symbolizing their collective stand for greater subsidy to higher education.

The allocation for the country’s SUCs in the proposed 2011 national budget has been reduced by 1.7 percent, from P23.8 billion in 2010 to only P23.4 billion this year. The proposed budget for 25 out of 112 SUCs has also been decreased by as much as 23.5%. Funds allotted for the University of the Philippines (UP), the country’s premier state university, with a population of 52,000, has been slashed by P1.39 billion or by 20.11%. The Philippine Normal University’s budget is reduced by P92 million cut or by 23.59%. P88 Million has been deducted from the budget of Bicol University cutting its budget by 18.82%.

There is a P1.1 billion (28.16 percent) decrease in the operations budget for SUCs. All but 15 SUCs have cuts in their operating budgets (MOOE) some by as much as 50%.

In the proposed P23.4 billion budget for SUCs, no funds have been earmarked for capital outlay or for the procurement of new equipment, nor for the repairs, construction and improvement of facilities. SUCs such as Polytechnic University of the Philippines and Marikina Polytechnic College that have been devastated by previous calamities and typhoons will not be given any much-needed attention and priority.

“We believe that the education budget cuts infringe on the right to education and the constitutional mandate of the government to make education accessible to all. We affirm our commitment to push for, at the minimum, the restoration of the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) budget of all SUCs to their 2010 levels,” they said.

“We also affirm our commitment to push for the allocation of sufficient Capital Outlay to SUCs severely affected by natural calamities during the past years, and SUCs experiencing severe classroom or facilities shortage.”

Among the legislators who signed the unity statement against higher education budget cuts initiated by Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino were:

House Committee on Higher and Technical Education Chairman Rep. Sonny Angara
Lone District of Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel Pacquiao
Lone District of San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito
Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Teodoro Casiño
Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares
Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan
Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Emerenciana de Jesus
Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Rafael Mariano
Alliance of Concerned Teachers Partylist Rep. Rolando Tinio
Lone District of Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr.
Lone District of Apayao Rep. Eleanor Bulut-Begtang
Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Cagas
Lanao del Norte Rep. Fatima Dimaporo
Ang Kasangga Partylist Rep. Teodorico Haresco
Bagong Henerasyon Partylist Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy
La Union Rep. Eufranio Eriguel
AVE Partylist Rep. Eulogio Magsaysay
Samar Rep. Emil Ong
Lone District of Nueva Viscaya Rep. Carlos Padilla
Bataan Rep. Herminia Roman
Lone District of Camiguin Rep. Pedro Romualdo
Cebu Rep. Gabriel Quisimbing
Buhay Partylist Rep. Michael Velarde

Among those who also supported the unity statement are:

Minority Leader Rep. Edcel Lagman
Committee on Appropriations Vice Chairperson Rep. Josefina Joson
Lone District of Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento
Lone District of Mountain Province Rep. Maximo Dalog
Manila Rep. Rosenda Ocampo
ALIF Partylist Rep. Acmad Tomawis.

They added, “We reiterate our disapproval of the proposals to slash state subsidy for SUCs. We stand behind the nation’s state university students, numbering close to a million, together with their parents and teachers and other advocates in their collective struggle for greater state subsidy for education.”

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