By Mark Ernest Famatigan
“Currently, there are more than 600 cases of MRR extension and readmission appeals in UPLB.”
During her privilege speech in Congress, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago raised concern over registration irregularities in the University of the Philippine Los Baños (UPLB), particularly its stringent Maximum Residency Rule (MRR) and readmission processes.
Citing a study made by the University Student Council (USC), Elago claimed that “seasonal subjects”- courses that can only be taken in a certain semester–remains one of the primary reasons why students in the University become delayed.
“Ayon sa pag-aaral ng kanilang Student Council, yung bilang ng mga seasonal subjects ay nagiging isa sa mga pangunahing dahilan kung bakit hindi nila natatapos sa oras ang kanilang mga degree,” she said.
Elago explained that most MRR and readmission cases in UPLB are approved, but is only disapproved on the level of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (OVCAA), its last step.
“Majority of the cases are approved in their respective department heads and deans but end up disapproved upon reaching the level of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Nakapasa na po sa lebel ng departamento sa kolehiyo ngunit ito po ay hindi na pinapayagan pagdating sa opisina ng Vice Chancellor,” she said.
Elago also mentioned that after being disapproved by the OVCAA, cases raised to the Office of the Chancellor (OC) face the appeals with the same treatment.
“Kapag naman sila ay magpupunta sa Office ng Chancellor, hindi pa rin ito napapayagan na makapag-enroll, kaya dumadami talaga ang mga kaso,” she said.
Moreover, she discussed how Free Tuition Law was not completely inclusive, failing to cover all students for their right to access education.
“Akala natin lahat ngayon basta nasa SUCs ay libre na dahil sa pagpasa ng Republic Act 10931, pero ngayon po yung ating mga MRR students, yung mga irregular, yung mga hindi nakakapasa sa admission policies ng mga board of regents at trustees, pag hindi po doon nakakapasa [sa mga tinakda na polisiya] ang isang estudyante ay hindi na po siya kwalipikado doon sa libre [na edukasyon],” she explained.
Elago also raised how plenty of students did not even have the chance to have an interview with the Offices, which is part of the MRR and readmission process.
“Marami po dito ay hindi man lang na-iinterbyu ng mga dapat sanang magbibigay ng approval sa kanilang application ng MRR at re-admission. Ito raw ho ay hindi pare-pareho sa lahat ng pagkakataon, kaya nararapat lamang na maipatawag natin ang mga opisina upang maktulong tayong makapagbukas ng espasyo para maayos ang mga nasabing mga inconsistencies at mga nai-ulat na mga problema,” she said.
She emphasized on the lack of correspondence on the registration period and the the time it takes to finish admission requirements due to the absence of university officials the students need signatures from.
“Nito lamang Enero, may binigay na last day na submission ng admission sa unang araw mismo ng resumption of offices sa UPLB, yan ang dahilan kung bakit yung mga magbibigay ng kanilang lagda sa MRR early admission ay wala diyan upang makapirma sa nasabing mga dokumento,” she claimed.
Towards the end of her speech, Elago urged the Committee on Higher and Technical Education of the House of Representatives to investigate the registration policy.
“We strongly urge the Committee on Higher and Technical Education in aid of legislation to investigate the reported irregularities in the implementation of the MRR and re-admission policy of UPLB while safeguarding its academic freedom and institutional autonomy.”
She also urged the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Board to look into the Free Tuition Law’s current provisions that may bar students from receiving tertiary education.
“It is high time that we look into possible revisions to RA 10931’s implementing rules and regulations with questionable provisions that are being used not only to restrict access, admission and retention policies in public higher education, but also to impede the functions of faculty and student unions, publications and organizations in the performance of their historical and significant role in raising public awareness as they strive to contribute to nation-building,” she said.
Elago emphasized the importance of discussing student concerns about the said law to ensure the proper allocation of public funds, claiming that the Free Tuition Law was being used to bottleneck students from entering college.
“Ngayon ang panahon upang matiyak natin na nilalaan natin ditong pondo ay talagang mapupunta sa pagpapalawig ng access at hindi sa nararanasan natin ngayon,” she said. “Imbis na ang libreng edukasyon ay maging daan para sa mas malaking access sa edukasyon, ito pa ay ginagamit ngayon para mas paliitin ang pintuan ng ating mga pampublikong pamantasan at kolehiyo.” [P]