Statement of the Commission on Human Rights in support of the proposed measure seeking to establish a voucher system for poor and academically qualified college students

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights in support of the proposed measure seeking to establish a voucher system for poor and academically qualified college students

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) welcomes the passage on the third and final reading of House Bill (HB) No. 7922 or “An Act Establishing A Voucher System for Poor and Academically Qualified Students of Private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Private Technical-Vocational Institutions (TVIs).” Some of the principal authors of the bill are Representatives Lani Mercado Revilla, LRay Villafuerte, Salvador Pleyto, Manuel Jose M. Dalipe, and Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong, among others.

Under HB 7922, the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Board will administer a portable voucher system that will allow beneficiaries to study in private HEIS and TVIs in cities and municipalities where there are existing state universities and colleges (SUCs), local universities and colleges (LUCs), and public TVIs.

Moreover, HB No. 7922 seeks to amend Section 3 of the Republic Act (RA) No. 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA) by adding certain provisions that will provide a voucher system for poor and academically qualified students enrolled in private HEIs and TVIs.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) recently approved its most recent round of tuition and other fee increases. Over 50 private tertiary education institutions raised their tuition fees by an average of 4.74%. Furthermore, stringent application and acceptance processes were imposed in various SUCs and LUCs due to the limited number of students these schools could accommodate, leaving other students with no choice but to enroll in other private HEIs and TVIs to pursue their undergraduate and/or technical-vocational studies.

CHR affirms that access to quality education is a fundamental right of every individual as enshrined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Moreover, Article 14 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that the “State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels, and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.” The proposed bill is a concrete way to uphold this right, especially of underprivileged qualified students, to help ensure that no student is left behind. Regardless of financial capacity or socio-economic background, all students must have access to quality higher education that promotes holistic development for the purpose of instilling the imperative role of Filipino youth in nation-building.

The Commission commends our legislators’ efforts to make higher education accessible to all. It is a manifestation of continuing efforts to create a well-rounded educational system that promotes equality, dignity, and excellence among our students. In these fast-evolving times, access to higher education is necessary to enable the youth to keep up with the changing times and to have equal access to opportunities regardless of socio-economic background.

CHR is hopeful of the swift progress of this bill given the overwhelming votes it garnered. We recognize continuing measures to advance quality and inclusive education for everyone. At the same time, we continue to remind that achieving true universal access to excellent higher learning goes beyond the bounds of the institutions but to actively work to address the gaps and to build a system that is accessible, affordable, and free from discrimination. ###