Duterte on how to fund free tuition law: 'Ewan ko'

DECIDING ON FREE TUITION. President Rodrigo Duterte holds a press conference in Malacau00f1ang on August 7, 2017.

DECIDING ON FREE TUITION. President Rodrigo Duterte holds a press conference in Malacau00f1ang on August 7, 2017.

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte admitted he has no idea where to get funding for the free tuition law he signed last August 3, leaving the matter for Congress to decide.

"'Yan nga ang problema ngayon. Gusto kong tanungin sa inyo. Mag-konsulta pa ako. Ewan ko," said a chuckling Duterte on Monday, August 7.

(That's my problem now. I want to ask you. I have to consult. I don't know.)

The President said he trusts that lawmakers knew what they were doing when they crafted a law that now entails billions of pesos worth of funding.

His economic advisers had opposed the measure precisely because of its supposedly too hefty price tag.

"Tignan natin kung saan. Kasi 'yung pag-approve ng Congress… Alam man nila walang pera (Let's see from where we can get funds. Because Congress approved it. They know there is no money)," Duterte said.

He too knew that government doesn't have enough money but decided to sign the law anyway.

"Eh pagdating sa 'kin, alam ko man na walang pera. 'Pirmahan natin ito.' Eh di sige (When the document was given to me, I knew there was no money. "Let's sign this." So okay)," said the President.

Duterte signed the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, now Republic Act No. 10931. It provides free tuition for students of 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs).

Duterte's economic advisers opposed the law, saying it would cost P100 billion yet would benefit mostly non-poor students since majority of college students come from the middle or upper classes. (READ: Economic experts 'disappointed' after Duterte OKs free tuition in SUCs)

But the Commission on Higher Education said the P100-billion figure was an overestimation, with the mandatory provisions of the bill set to cost only P16 billion. 

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra also said reallocation of budget from other government programs and official development assistance are possible sources of funds for the law. (READ: Free tertiary education 'lasting legacy' of Duterte gov't– Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.