At the beginning of the year, local chapters of various youth organizations in Baguio-Benguet like the Kabataan Partylist, College Editor’s Guild of the Philippines, National Union of the Philippines and Anakbayan have launched its campaign against Tuition and other Fee Increases in the region.
These organizations have recognized the fact that it is during the first quarter of the year and towards the end of the school year that most public and private universities release their proposals to increase tuition and other school fees for the next school year. In relation to this, we have scrupulously gathered the data of TOFI proposals of various universities in Baguio-Benguet and other provinces in the Cordillera for the past weeks. Subsequently, we have monitored and checked if all universities have complied with the guidelines released by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) regarding consultations of TOFI with the students. During this period of monitoring, we have documented several violations committed by school administrators. For instance, in Pines City College and STI-Baguio, school administrators merely posted an announcement of the TOFI proposal they intend to implement by June. No consultation occurred in both schools. In Saint Louis University, the school administrators are excusing itself in conducting a consultation among students regarding the fee increase by saying that only tuition fees among freshmen and miscellaneous fees are intended to be raised next year. It should be a protocol among school administrators to consult their most immediate and most significant constituents in the university, the students, with regards to policies, not just TOFI proposals, they intend to implement in the school.
The most notable case that we have documented and followed during this campaign is the violation committed by the administration of Baguio Central University regarding the consultation of students. Last February 21, this consultation was conducted in the university. Prior to this consultation, members of the Student Parliament (SP) was not properly informed and was not given the documents like the school’s financial statement which are relevant to the Administration’s TOFI proposal. They were not informed that the attendance of the SP’s faculty adviser was needed in the consultations. This prompted the SP’s Prime Minister to hurriedly look for their adviser before the consultation formally begins. In addition to that, there was no sizeable representation of the students in the consultation. Only the SP’s Prime Minister and a few other members were present in the activity. We find this questionable because being the most immediate population which the TOFI proposal will affect in case it gets approved, the students should have the most number of representatives in the consultation. Lastly, there was no CHED representative present in the consultation.
These serve as our grounds in initiating a signature campaign within BCU. This became a joint project with the BCU SP. Also, we conducted other signature campaigns in other schools and even in public places. These were done to make this issue known to the students and the general public. More importantly, we want them to act regarding these alarming cases of violation regarding TOFI consultations within Baguio-Benguet universities. Last March 04, 2011, our representative and the SP Prime Minister of BCU went to CHED regional office in La Trinidad to file a petition regarding the violation committed by the BCU administration. Concomitant to this petition is the recommendation to declare the February 21 meeting in BCU as “null and void” and hence, call for a consultation among its students before the school year ends. Serving as grounds for this recommendation are the same grounds elaborated above.
As a result of this petition action jointly made with the BCU Student Parliament, CHED Regional Director Freddie Bernal nullified the February 21 meeting in BCU and rendered it as an invalid consultation. This means that everything that has been talked about in the February 21 meeting is likewise invalid. Ultimately, this raises the need to conduct a consultation in BCU regarding the administration’s TOFI proposal. If no consultation transpires, there will be a deadlock between the administration and the students and the TOFI proposal will not be implemented.
What the stretch of this campaign has shown us as of now is that the collective effort of the youth and students is not likely to go in vain. With the participation of all the students who willingly signed at the signature campaign to show their support against all TOFI in Baguio-Benguet and the initiative of student leaders from different universities to face the CHED regional director and express their complaints first-hand, this initial gain has been achieved. However, the students still have a long way to go in this campaign and continuous actions must be sustained to ensure that no unjustified TOFI gets to be passed.
For now, we proudly declare this success of the campaign against TOFI and firmly call on all students all over Baguio-Benguet and the Cordillera region to continue fighting for a quality and affordable education.
KABATAAN PARTYLIST CORDILLERA CHAPTER
COLLEGE EDITOR’S GUILD OF THE PHILIPPINES CORDILLERA
NATIONAL UNION OF STUDENTS IN THE PHILIPPINES BAGUIO-BENGUET