Lawmakers ‘alarmed’ over zero budget for 4 state tertiary schools in BARMM

The seat of power in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in Cotabato City, 22 September 2021. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 30 September) – Two Moro members of the House of Representatives expressed “alarm and deep concern” after four state colleges and universities (SUCs) in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) got zero fund allocations in the 2022 national budget.

House Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman said that without funds the schools cannot operate and “it is like crushing the dreams of thousands of Moro youths.”

On Tuesday, Hataman, who is from Basilan, and Anak Mindanao Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan filed House Resolution No. 2251, asking the House leadership to allocate funds for the four educational institutions.

The four include the Adiong Memorial Polytechnic State College in Marawi City, Cotabato State University in Cotabato City, Sulu State College and the Tawi-Tawi Regional Agricultural College.

Hataman told MindaNews on Wednesday that the matter must be addressed immediately, otherwise, it will have drastic effects on the future of thousands of Moro students and employees of the four SUCs.

He said not providing funds to the four SUCs is like “robbing thousands of Moro students of their chances to better their lives and those of their families.”

The lawmaker cited that these schools have existed even before the creation of BARMM, and their charters provide that their funding requirements shall be provided by the national government.

He said they also asked the Development Budget Coordination Committee to allocate more than P700 million (correcting the P911-million figure earlier reported) to the four SUCs in 2022.

Sangcopan noted that not including the state-run schools in next year’s budget allocation seriously threatens the very existence of the SUCs in the BARMM.

“Thousands of students and school personnel will be displaced,” she said.

Hataman said the national government must not interpret the Bangsamoro Law, specifically Section 16 of Article 9, to mean that the budget for the SUCs in BARMM will now be funded by the regional government.

Doing so would be “a deviation from the letter and spirit of such provision of the law,” he said.

Section 16, Article 9 of RA 11054 or the Bangsamoro Law states, “Any school, college or university existing in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region as of the effectivity of this Organic Law, and such other schools and institutions that may be established hereinafter shall be deemed integral components of the educational system of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, and shall be governed by their respective charters.”

Surigao del Norte Rep. Francisco Matugas II, who sponsored the Commission on Higher Education budget, said the budget department interpreted the Bangsamoro Law to mean that all financial subsidies and appropriations for the four SUCs in the BARMM will be shouldered by the BARMM block grant.

“That’s the rationale of the DBM in putting zero for these four state universities, including the Sulu State College,” he said.

Hataman was optimistic however that the matter can be resolved once it will be taken up with the Inter-Governmental Relations Body, consisting of officials of the national government and the autonomous region government. (Rommel G. Rebollido/MindaNews)