House: CHR budget to fund free education

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 14) — The Commission on Human Right's supposed P623 million budget for 2018 will now be realigned to fund the free higher education act, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Karlo Nograles said on Thursday.

The CHR proposed allocation, National Commission for Indigenous People's P1.187-billion funding, and the Energy Regulatory Commission's budget of P350.95 million will also be realigned to the Republic Act 10931 or "Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act" after the House of Representatives gave the three agencies a budget of P,1000.

"That would be the treatment kasi where else can we put it except doon. Kasi naghahanap kami ng pondo para sa implementation ng Free Higher Education Law," he said.

[Translation: That would be the treatment because where else can we put it except doon. We are looking for funding for the implementation of the Free Higher Education Law.]

Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Commissioner Prospero De Vera in August said around ₱20 billion will be needed to fully subsidize tuition fees and other fees in state tertiary schools for 2018.

Nograles said, for now, there is nothing the lower chamber can do to bring back CHR's budget.

"The reason I cannot touch any more sa CHR, NCIP at ERC, those were moved and approved in plenary. So those are untouchables for me. I cannot anymore amend that," he said.

Nograles added the House of Representatives will maintain their stand to slash the fundings when they meet with the Senate in the Bicameral Conference Committee Meeting, which is expected to happen in November.

However, hope is not lost for CHR, he said.

The CHR can still ask the DBM for fund augmentation in 2018 if they really need to, especially to pay for the salary of its employees, Nograles said.

"I think they can use contigency funds to be able to augment operations in government basta ang importante is there is an item in the government that needs augmentation," he said.

The ERC and NCIP can also do this.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers are not buying the plan to realign the CHR's budget to fund the Free Higher Education Act.

They maintained the CHR should get its budget back.

Kabataan Party-list Representative Sarah Elago suggested getting budget for education form the

"Dapat mapondohan ang libreng edukasyon sa ating mga kolehiyo at pamantasan pero hindi ito dapat kunin dun sa mga equally important na services, mga dapat na natatamasa ng ating mga mamayan... Just get budget for higher ed from the PNP double barrel," she said.

The Philippine National Police is asking for P900 million budget for their 2018 drug operations. The controversial drug war is criticized by the administration and opposition lawmakers, the United Nations, and local and international human rights groups for thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings supposedly committed by police officers.

Anakbayan Representative Tom Villarin is also against the House's plan.

"You can't cut the budget of a constitutional body then to soften criticism bestow it to a supposed loftier cause like free tuition. Educating people on the value of human rights should start with our legislators," he said in a text message.

Aside from the three agencies with P1,000 budget, Nograles said the House of Representatives will also get funding for the Free Higher Education Act from other agencies which are slow in implementing projects, such as the Departments of Transportation, Education, Agrarian Reform, and Information and Communciations Technology.