Press Release
February 17, 2016


Sen. Chiz Escudero lamented the death of a college student from Bicol who allegedly took his own life after losing his scholarship, saying no student should be pushed to this situation because of the prohibitive cost of education in the country.

According to news reports, Jessiven Lagatic, a fourth year student from Central Bicol State University of Agriculture, committed suicide on February 11, after his scholarship was taken away from him and was forced to pay his school fees amounting to P7,000.

"Kung libre lamang sana ang edukasyon sa ating bansa, walang estudyanteng kailangang kitilin ang kanilang sariling buhay dahil walang pambayad ng matrikula," Escudero said. "Walang estudyante ang dapat humantong sa ganitong sitwasyon dahil hindi siya makapag-aral."

The leading vice-presidential contender said this is a reason why "Gobyernong may Puso" intends to put an additional P20 billion to the SUCs' budget to subsidize free tuition in all public colleges and universities across the country.

According to a statement released by the League of Filipino Students (LFS), the case of Lagatic was the "fifth education crisis-related suicide under the Aquino administration."

In 2013, Kristel Tejada, a student from the University of the Philippines Manila committed suicide because of the "no late payment policy" of the university.

LFS also added that last year, Rosanna Sanfuego, a student from Cagayan State University, Nilna Habibun from Zamboanga Sibugay and Jhoemary Azaula from Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology also took their own lives because they were unable to pay their school fees.

Escudero, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, said the total allocation for 114 SUCs under the 2016 national budget is P47.4 billion.

"Hindi ba't nakakalungkot na nariyan ang bilyun-bilyong pondo para sa edukasyon pero kailangan pang may magbuwis ng buhay para lamang magising sa katotohanan ang mga kinauukulan?" Escudero asked.

"Huwag na sana nating hintayin na magkaroon na naman ng Jessiven Lagatic o Kristel Tejada bago natin iparamdam sa mga mamamayan na ang edukasyon ay karapatan, at ang edukasyon ay para sa lahat--mayaman man o mahirap, matalino man o hindi," he added.

The senator also vowed for the full and effective implementation of the student financial assistance program under Republic Act No. 10687, or the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Act (UniFAST), which was enacted in October 2015.

Unlike the typical scholarship program, Escudero said the UniFAST covers all students, not only those with honors or with exemplary scholastic record.

Data from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) would show that of the 3,044,218 that enrolled to college in school year 2011-2012, only 648,752 completed a four-year course and graduated in 2015, or a 21.31-percent survival rate from first to fourth year college.

Although there are existing student financial assistance programs for tertiary education, these programs served only 60,240 college students in 2011, or 1.97 percent of the 3,044,219 students who enrolled that year.

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