Nov 222013

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) assured scholars dependent on lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund that they can stay in school despite the Supreme Court’s recent decision declaring the multibillion-peso fund unconstitutional.

In a statement released Friday, CHED chairperson Patricia Licuanan said the commission is now looking into other possible funding sources for PDAF scholars so their studies will not be affected.

Licuanan added CHED asked 111 state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the country as early as October to allow PDAF beneficiaries enrolled for the first semester of this school year to enroll again for the second semester.

Some scholars have expressed fears they will have to stop their studies following the Supreme Court’s issuance last month of a temporary restraining order on the release of the second tranche of the 2013 PDAF.

Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone has warned that over 200,000 scholars will be affected by the order to freeze PDAF use.

Licuanan said CHED is currently assessing the situation of PDAF beneficiaries enrolled in private higher education institutions (HEIs) to determine how it can help scholars continue their studies.

“Once CHED has assessed the resources needed by former PDAF grantees in public and private HEIs, CHED will tap into its Higher Education Development Fund, funds from the General Appropriations Act and possibly from the President’s Social Fund,” she said.

The Court declared the PDAF Article in 2013 General Approriations Act and all similar provisions on the pork barrel system as illegal because it “allowed legislators to wield, in varying gradiations, non-oversight, post-enactment authority in vital areas of budget executions (thus violating) the principle of separation of powers.”

The Supreme Court said in its decision that the pork barrel system creates a system of budgeting in which items are not “textualized into appropriations bill.” It also said this “flouts the prescribed power of presentment and in the process denies the President the power to veto items.”

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said Wednesday that aside from students, hundreds of thousands of patients in government hospitals will also be affected by the Supreme Court ruling since some health programs and subsidies may have to be scrapped due to lack of funds. — JDS, GMA News

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