I attended a seminar organized by the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines – Region VI at the University of San Augustine in Iloilo. The speakers was Atty. Ulan Sarmiento.
I really admire Atty. Sarmiento for his eloquence and competence in discussing the Philippine education laws, especially those regarding the rights of the students. The title of his discussion was on Students Rights and wrongs. He talked about the right and the misconceptions of the students regarding their rights and duties. Time and time again, students visit me at my office and talk to me regarding their rights. These students are really assertive and they really know what they are talking about. I, being a neophyte in student affairs, would often use some provisions in the manual or in other authority texts that I had read while I was in my Graduate studies. My first and formal information on student welfare and issues was only during this seminar. So, Now, I may say I am partially equipped with legal bases for issues concerning the students.
Atty. Sarmiento, in all his wits was able to hold the congregation from 9:30 to 12:30 without making anyone sleepy. He really discussed issues that affect the Philippine private schools especially the Catholic institutions.
He discussed the right of every Filipino to get an education and free at that. Our 1987 Constitution is very clear on this provision in the Bill of Rights. However, any of us failed to see that “free education” in the charter refers to the education that shall be provided for by the State and not by any other private institution. So, any queries regarding the issue of “free education” is thrown into the Government for them to provide for the citizens. The private institutions give private education as a privilege, the “education as a right” is reserved for the State.
Second issue that was raised was on the right of the student to stay in school. This right is true for students who are enrolled in a certain program. The school has the obligation to graduate the student. However, there are provisions set that could make the refusal of the school valid. He stressed that on the part of the student, they should comply also with the academic requirements before one could be allowed for continuance.
A discussion also on “Tuition Fee” was taken up. We have to consider that the life blood of all private education institutions are based on the collection of the tuition fee. Imagine what will happen to our private institutions if students would not pay their tuition or if private schools will undergo the moratorium of tuition fee increases. Legislations of “no tuition fee increases” have been heard in Congress but one should see that this will be a poison to quality education offered by private schools. It is there that I understood the importance of schools to increase fees. Sarmiento pointed out that schools are compelled to close once their will be imbalance in the economics of the school.
Formation of fraternities and organizations was also tackled in the discussion. It is mandated that the school could never refuse the right of the students for an assembly or association. However, legislations have been passed that in the elementary and secondary levels, Fraternities and Sororities are vehemently prohibited. In tertiary level, these are called “organizations” and are valid. However, they should subject themselves to the accreditation of the administration. Here, the school has the right to deny or to accredit the said organization. The organization shall also submit to the vision-mission of the school. Any infringement or disobedience to the policies of the school shall give the school the authority to discredit the erring organization after the observance of due process.
It was also in the seminar where I learned that the term “Expulsion” has many legal implications. The speaker told the assembly never to issue expulsion for this is only proper to the DepEd Secretary or to the CHED Chair. The schools are only restricted to either exclusion, non-readmission , or suspension. “Expulsion” means that the student is expelled from all schools in the country. Usually, what we mean in our orders that a student is expelled, we mean exclusion. These penalties shall be imposed only after due process of law is observed. So, administrations who are considering of imposing a greater penalty to a student or a group of students, they should think a lot before imposing the penalty.
Let me share something. In the university, we minimized transgressors by letting them understand their violation through our Student Development and Placement Center. Once the student understands his/her fault, she returns and would do community service. In this way, we have minimized transgressors and violators and we have really educated them more.
I would like to share more of the insights I got from the seminar but once again the space has ended and I have to limit it here. I promise to have a continuation.
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St. Ezekiel Moreno and Pope John Paul II, pray for us.
(this has been rehashed from the published article in the column “Thinking in progress” , XL magazine)
by Carlos Legaspi, Jr