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The House Committee on Higher and Technical Education deliberated earlier today House Bill 318 – Declaring the Students’ Rights and House Resolution 115 Urging the Members of the House of Representatives to uphold the Philippine Declaration of Students’ Rights authored by Rep. Sarah Jane Elago.

The bill intends to provide a national framework protecting the rights of the students. There are House Bills of similar nature. HBs 1416 & 6368 – Providing for a national framework for students’ rights and welfare by Reps. Alfred Vargas and Rufus Rodriguez.

The youth calls for the passage of the bill.

Rep. Elago on her sponsorship speech revisited the 1987 Constitution Article 14, Section 2 that mandates all educational institutions to “Inculcate the patriotism, respect of the human rights and to encourage critical thinking”.

The youth solon reiterates the highly important international agreement that valuing the essence of students’ rights. She emphasized that the Philippines is a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The covenant states that “educational shall be directed to the full development of human personality and the sense of its dignity”.

Elago gives an emphasis on the “participation of the youth in policy” which the Kabataan solon believes needed further attention. The students are sometimes being neglected in decision making or being intimidated by the school administration because of their critical analysis against existing abuses.

The continuous reports of abuses among students are too many mentions. The dominance of sexual abuses in schools and the unjust tuition and other school fees, even increases, are just a few to mention.

Students leaders back the call to pass a Students’ Rights Bill

National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) manifested that the House Bill and House Resolution of Rep. Elago possess a unique provision. It gives more adequate representation in policymaking not only in handbook formulation but guidelines participation in tuition fees and other school fees.

The House bill aims to include a provision giving students to participate in national policy, review schools penalty, greater freedom on organization collections, and provision that support student council and campus journalism independence.

The University of Southeastern Philippines Student Council President Harvey Lao and Rise for Educational Alliance convenor, Tierone Santos also expressed the same support to the House Bill and Resolution of Rep. Sarah Elago, banking on their and their constituents experienced challenges concerning their democratic rights as students.

COCOPEA Objection

COCOPEA Representative Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada objected to all House Bill reiterating that there are already existing Supreme Court decisions and laws that protecting the rights of the students. He cited the Campus Journalism Act, Safe Spaces Act, Deped Laws. Estrada believes that this bill intends to supersede other rights including the right of teachers and school administration. There must be a balance and clear responsibilities both of the students and the administration. He uses the example of Freedom of Speech that may easily fall to the offense of libel. Estrada suggested an omnibus bill that tackles the rights of all members of the academic community.

CHED section of Student Development and Services expressed their support to the bill and will submit a full complete comment on the House Bill.

Interpellation of Rep. France Castro

Castro of the ACTS Teacher Partylist manifests her support to the said bill. Castro inquired how the school responded to different cases of abuse. COCOPEA Representative Atty. Estrada reassures Castro that they are compliant and consistent with the values that protect students’ rights.

Castro asked Elago if there is provision penalizing violators of students’ rights. Elago affirms that there are fine, not less than 50,000 pesos but not more than 100,000 pesos and possible imprisonment of not less than 1 but not more than 5 years.

Youth rep defends the bill

Rep. Sarah Elago reiterates that the bill’s intention is not to “Replace” or to “Govern schools” but to protect students from violator. This was supported by NUSP resource person Blaise Bellosillo. Bellosillo is a victim of intimidation of her school administration because of the “Dissenting Opinion” that often met by hostility.

Other Discuss the consolidated House Bills on Students’ Rights through a Technical WorkinDg Group (TWG).

Other Deliberated Bills:

A.) HB 6397 – Converting the National Maritime Polytechnic (NMP) in Tacloban into the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA) Visayas extension campus, providing funds therefor (Rep. Rufus Rodriguez)

B.) HB 6502 – Converting the Bulacan Agricultural State College in the Province of Bulacan into a state university to be known as the Bulacan State Agricultural University and appropriating funds therefor (Rep. Lorna Silverio)

C.) HB 6800 – Establishing the University of Eastern Philippines satellite campuses in the Municipalities of Allen, San Isidro, and Lavezares in Northern Samar, and appropriating funds therefor (Rep. Paul Ruiz Daza)

D.) HB 6851 – Establishing Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) training and assessment centers in the Municipalities of Atok, Bakun, Bokod, Buguias, Itogon, Kabayan, Kapangan, Kibungan, La Trinidad, Mankayan, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay, Province of Benguet, and appropriating funds therefor (Rep. Eric Go Yap)

E.) HB 6896 – Establishing the Maguindanao State University (MASU), providing for the purpose the consolidation of the Mindanao State University (MSU) Maguindanao campus, Mindanao State University – Graduate School Maguindanao campus, the UPI Agricultural School, and the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) Buluan extension campus, and appropriating funds therefor (Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu)

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