For approving tuition hikes: Youth groups, students file raps in Office of the Ombudsman vs. CHED officials

Photo courtesy of GMA News.

Photo courtesy of GMA News.

Youth groups and students led by the Rise for Education Alliance today filed criminal and administrative charges against Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairperson Patricia Licuanan and several other high-ranking CHED officials for approving tuition hikes in 287 higher education institutions (HEIs) in the country and failing to issue a decision on pending tuition complaints.

In a 59-page complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman this morning, petitioners Sarah Elago of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), Marc Lino Abila of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), Vencer Crisostomo of Anakbayan, Charlotte Velasco of the League of Filipino Students (LFS), and students James Bryan Deang and Vincent Sudaria charged CHED Chair Licuanan and seven other high-ranking CHED officials with “gross incompetence, gross inefficiency, and gross neglect of duty.”

“The case at hand springs from CHED’s wholesale failure to perform its constitutional mandate to exercise reasonable supervision and regulation of educational institutions  due to the commission’s gross inexcusable incompetence, inefficiency, and negligence in handling several complaints filed by students against tuition increase proposals for academic year 2014-2015; and the unexplainable non-enforcement of a CHED en banc resolution that disallowed the  charging of so-called “development fees” in higher education institutions,” the petitioners stated in their joint complaint-affidavit.

Pursuant to relevant provisions of CHED Memorandum Order 3-2012, which regulates the process of increasing tuition and other fee increases in HEIs, student councils and individual students filed separate complaints before the CHED in the period between March 18 and April 1 of the current year, to question the proposal of their respective schools to increase tuition and other fees for academic year 2014-2015.

However, more than two months after the complaints have been filed, CHED has not released a final decision on any of the pending petitions, thus violating its own rules on tuition increases while also committing gross incompetence, gross inefficiency, and gross neglect of duty.

“The said omission committed by CHED officials has resulted to the charging of new and higher rates during the enrollment period of schools with pending complaints, constituting grave damage on the part of the petitioners in the pending cases,” the joint complaint-affidavit read.

“Despite the complainants’ diligent request for CHED to act upon the various tuition complaints, no official communication to student petitioners were ever given to students who filed the complaints to ascertain the status of the said complaints,” the complaint further stated.

The complainants also assailed CHED’s approval of tuition increases for AY 2014-2015, without first resolving pending complaints.

“By coming up with a list of approved tuition increase proposals for AY 2014-2015 and not announcing it to the public through any medium whatsoever, and not even giving proper notice to petitioners of pending cases of tuition increases, CHED essentially kept the information on approved increases to itself, thereby leaving the public in the dark on which schools are charging fees approved by the commission,” the petitioners said

They added, “By coming up with a list of approved tuition increase proposals for AY 2014-2015 without properly and judiciously hearing and investigating violations reported unto the commission by student complainants, CHED officials violated the right of complainants to due process and essentially reneged their duty and obligation to reasonably supervise and regulation higher education institutions. Such deed could be seen as an act constituting inexcusable negligence in handling administrative complaints.”

Petitioners also charged Licuanan and all CHED commissioners with gross inefficiency, gross incompetency, and gross neglect of duty for failing to implement a CHED en banc resolution that abolished development fees.

During its 397th Regular Commission Meeting on August 6, 2012, the CHED En Banc issued Resolution No. 221-2012, which prohibited the collection of development fees.

“Despite this clear issuance, public and private universities still collect developmental fees that range from PhP120 to as much as PhP2,000 in subsequent years. CHED has done nothing to address the non-enforcement of its very own resolution, thus making its Resolution No. 221-2012 worthless,” the joint complaint-affidavit read.

Petitioners asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the said acts and omissions committed by the respondents and asked the Ombudsman to charge the CHED officials with:

  • gross neglect of duty due to their patent violation of R.A. 3019 otherwise known as “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” particularly Section 3(e) and 3(f)
  • gross incompetence for their patent violation of Section 4(a) and 4(b) of Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees
  • gross inefficiency for patent violation of Section 7 and Section 8(b) of RA 9485 or the Anti-Red Tape Act
  • administrative suits against respondents for committing acts falling under Rule X of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 6713, particularly the following Rule X(j), (k), and (l)

“In filing this case before this Honorable Office of the Ombudsman, complainants hope that the matter will be seriously and genuinely investigated and the respondents be expeditiously and seriously dealt with,” the petitioners said.###

Click this link for the JOINT COMPLAINT-AFFIDAVIT.