MANILA - Budget Secretary Butch Abad on Tuesday slammed Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon's claim that forced student labor has been authorized in the budget of state universities and colleges (SUCs).
In a statement sent to ABS-CBN News, Abad said: "If only Ridon did his research. That's the problem with shooting from the mouth: Re the 'Forced labor' issue bannered by the Bulletin, this is what we were able to gather: 1. The Special Provision has been in our GAAs since 1979. 2. In 2004, the allowance was increased from P10 to P25 per hour. 3. It is voluntary and was requested by the SUCs in response to requests by students to be given opportunity to practice for their vocational courses."
Ridon on Friday questioned a special provision inserted in House Bill No. 6132 or the 2016 General Appropriations Bill which empowers state schools to tap students for construction work.
He was referring to Section 12 of the Special Provisions for the budget of SUCs which tackles the "Vocational and Practicum Training of Students."
The said provision states, "SUCs are authorized to avail the voluntary services of their students in the construction or repair of buildings and the fabrication or repair of buildings and the fabrication or repair of equipment subject to the payment of P25 per hour but not to exceed four hours a day."
"They may likewise utilize student labor for academic, research, extension and administrative matters as part of practicum training subject to payment of P25 per hour," the provision further states.
During the plenary debate on the budget of the 114 SUCs, Ridon asked budget sponsor Rep. Mariano Piamonte why such a provision exists, explaining that the said provision may be abused by SUCs to force students to do construction work.
"Mr. Speaker, distinguished sponsor, this representation simply cannot accept this provision! Akala po natin wala nang polo y servicios dahil panahon pa yun ng Espanyol, pero ano ito, may probisyong hinahayaang gawing construction worker ang mga estudyante kapalit ang barat na P25 na sahod," Ridon said.
SUCs budget sponsor asserted that the said provision is only for "voluntary work" and only cover the practicum of students.
"But Mr. Sponsor, do construction and fabrication work now qualify as practicum work for our students? There is no need for us to include such provision in the national budget. Let schools practice academic freedom and let them prepare appropriate practicum programs for students. We should remove this provision on student labor," Ridon said.
The legislator said that he will move for the removal of the said provision during the period of amendments for HB 6132.