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Palace-CHED feud will not affect free tuition in all SUCs next year – senators

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At least two senators downplayed the possibility of President Rodrigo Duterte shooting down the P8 billion item in the 2017 national budget, giving free tuition to an estimated one million college students, due to reported differences with Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chair Patricia Licuanan.

“Kahit walang chairman, may chairman o nag-aaway sila, hindi maapektuhan ang programang ito,” Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said Saturday.

Recto, who sponsored the provision in the P3.35-trillion national budget further assuaged fears of the said item being vetoed by Malacanang saying that all presidential candidates in the last election issued the promise that tuition in state universities and colleges will be free.

“Kasama si Pangulong Digong,” he said.

Sen. Loren Legarda, finance committee chair in the Senate, recently-ratified said the proposed 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA) is expected to be signed by the President before Christmas.

“One of the long-standing concerns of poor families is bringing their children to college because after finishing high school in public schools, most of them have no means to pay for tuition in SUCs. The 2017 national budget addresses this concern,” she said.

The P8 billion allocation covers only basic matriculation in 114 SUCs but indigent students may still avail of grants and aid for miscellaneous fees under various programs, Legarda added.

Licuanan, it can be recalled, had been asked by Malacanang to desist from joining Cabinet meetings just like Vice President Leni Robredo.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said Licuanan, an appointee of former Pres. Benigno Aquino III, had been asked to tender courtesy resignation way back Aug., along with other appointees of the previous administration.