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UP: ‘Mga Iskolar na Mayayaman’


The Manila Times, April 29, 3013


“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men..” Horace Mann, American educator, 1848

RATHER than “Iskolar ng Bayan” (Scholars of the People) with its connotation that they’re from the masses, students of the University of the Philippines are mostly “Iskolar na Mayayaman” (rich scholars).

Based on official UP data, its typical student is from the upper class, whose tuition taxpayers heavily subsidize: 72 percent are among the A and B brackets, or those whose families have income of at least P500,000. Only 6.2 percent are from the lowest E bracket, who are not charged tuition.

This conclusion is extracted from the UP’s report on beneficiaries of its Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program. The number of those in the AB could be a bit inflated, based on the argument that the UP’s requirements to prove one’s eligibility to the STFAP program is so rigorous that many of those not from the upper classes do not bother to go through the process. I don’t believe this though: Really poor parents would do all they can to save a few thousands in tuition they deserve.

The class structure for a university the state subsidizes is scandalous. The UP’s full tuition for a year is P54,000, while its actual cost has been estimated to be nearly triple that, at P150,000. Why would the government—us taxpayers—subsidize a rich college kid’s tuition by nearly P100,000?

The data shows something deeply wrong in the UP, as a heavily subsidized national university. UP Manila student Kristel Tejada took her life when she fell into deep depression that she had to stay out of school as her application to be moved to the E2 bracket (full tuition subsidy and a stipend) was not acted upon.

And how many UP Manila students were in the E2 bracket? One hundred ninety-eight: 3.3 percent of the UP Manila’s 5,938. If Kristel was taken in into the E2 bracket, that poorest strata would account for just 3.4 percent of its student population. Was that such a difficult decision from UP Manila’s administrators?

The UP system’s budget is about P10 billion. How many poor students are there in UP who do not have to pay tuition fee? Just 2,544 or 6 percent of its 41,356 students.

In the US, college tuition accounts for an average of 17 percent of a family’s income. In the UP tuition is just 5.4 percent of those in the A bracket, or those with at an annual income of P1 million. The P54,000 the 72 percent of rich UP students pay for tuition is dwarfed by their families’ annual budget for such leisure as for eating out, or a summer vacation.

Even in such things as the state-funded national university, the elite manages to use it to perpetrate itself.

Virata to be honored?

The UP Diliman’s Board of Regents on April 12 decided that its College of Business Administration will be renamed “Cesar E. A. Virata School of Business”, after Ferdinand Marcos’s prime technocrat.

Former Marcos technocrat Cesar Virata

I covered Mr. Virata since the 1980s when I was the beat reporter covering government finance. I respect Virata for the fact that he was completely untainted by any charge of corruption in his 16 years as a technocrat of the dictator Marcos. He is known to be congenial, without airs, and well, a “nice person.” When Marcos fell, he easily moved to the private sector as consultant and board member in the country’s biggest corporations.

Virata’s main accomplishment in life, for which he devoted his best years, was as a technocrat of the martial law regime, Marcos’ finance secretary from 1970 to 1986, or for the whole of martial law.

I don’t think I have to relate, whether it is his fault or not, how bad government finances became when Virata was finance minister, that we had to default on our foreign loans in 1983. That resulted in the country’s worst depression ever, an unheard of contraction of 7.3 percent each in 1984 and 1985 that drove millions of Filipinos to poverty.

I in fact liked Virata when I was covering government finance since he would not deny information I got from my sources, even if they were damaging to the Marcos regime. However, I have not heard any account— from others or from himself—that he had opposed the economic and financial policies of the Marcos regime, and, more importantly, that he said a word against the torture and killings during the dictatorship.

He did not oppose the buildup of foreign loans starting in the late 1970s, nor did he raise alarms that much of the loan proceeds were being siphoned off by shadowy Chinese-Filipino textile tycoons and then by Marcos cronies. Never did Virata leak to the mosquito press then and the international media any information on the Marcos regime that could have hastened its fall.

By agreeing to be a member of Marcos stamp-pad Batasang Pambansa (representing Cavite, from 1978 to 1986), and then as Marcos Prime Minister (1981-1986), he went beyond being just a technocrat and became a political operator for the dictatorship. By being a “nice person”, he in fact served to deodorize the dictatorship.

One of the maneuvers of the Marcos regime, which I was proud of uncovering, was its tampering of the data on our balance of payments, to make it appear that it was in a surplus. The officials responsible for this were then Central Bank governor Jaime Laya, Philippine National Bank president Placido Mapa and Virata. My boss at Business Day, Raul Locsin, told me that the three separately called him asking that I be fired from the paper for my “irresponsible report”, and even threatened to call in PNB’s loans to the paper.

The Wall Street Journal followed up that “irresponsible report” and adopted the angle that our international reserves (which is based on our BOP) were smaller than officially claimed. Foreign banks panicked and called in their loans triggering the debt crisis that started October 1983, which, together with Ninoy’s assassination in August led to Marcos’s fall.

Has Virata ever offered apology to his role in running the Marcos dictatorship’s bureaucracy? No. When Marcos fell, did he dedicate the remainder of his life to some noble cause to uplift the country’s poor? No, he’s been too busy as executive and adviser for the country’s tycoons, especially Alfonso Yuchengco, in whose Rizal Bank Commercial Banking Corp. he has been vicechairman of for more than a decade now.

And the UP, many of whose alumni’s lives were snuffed out or ruined during the dictatorship, will be honoring Marcos’ technocrat, by naming its business college after him? Why not a “Ferdinand Marcos College of Public Administration”, for his skill in holding on to power for two decades?

Why not a “Francisco Tatad School of Mass Communications”? At least had the decency (or the brains) to leave the Marcos dictatorship in 1980, and after all, he served as Senator of the Republic for nine years. More importantly, he writes brilliant columns that enlighten our people unlike Virata who’s been enlightening only the elite.

But this is the power of our elite, and they take care of one of their own. I wonder if it was UP President Alfredo Pascual, like Virata a corporate executive, who had the gall to recommend the renaming of the school after him. Or was it the Yuchengcos? Is Pascual expecting some huge donation from them?