MANILA - A measure seeking to rename a state university after former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. has hurdled the committee level at the House of Representatives.
With a vote of 7-1, the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education approved on Tuesday House Bill 2407 seeking to rename the Mariano Marcos State University in Batac, Ilocos Norte to Ferdinand E. Marcos State University.
The bill, which passed the third and final reading in the lower chamber during the 18th Congress, was refiled by Ilocos Norte 2nd District Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba.
"I gave my unconditional support to this proposal, because Pres. Marcos is the father of state universities and colleges in the country, for establishing most of them during his term, thereby providing access to quality education,” MMSU President Shirley Agrupis said.
She told the committee that majority of the participants in their special meeting last Monday, which was attended by members of the administrative council, and local board of regents, also support the bill.
The Commission on Higher Education posed no objection to the measure.
Kabataan Party List Rep. Raoul Manuel objected to the bill, citing injustices committed during the term of the late dictator.
"'Yung ganitong bill, it runs contrary to the essence of some legal actions and executive orders that recognize that Ferdinand Marcos Sr. has done some abuses on our Filipino people. We have Republic Act 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation Recognition Act of 2013. Nabanggit dito na kinikilala ng ating pamahalaan yung mga biktima ng summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance and gross human rights violations under the martial law of former President Marcos Sr. noong 1972 hanggang 1986,” he said.
“Mayroon ding Supreme Court ruling na nagsasabi na ‘yung assets and properties ng mga Marcos ay hindi kapantay… disproportionate to their aggregate salaries as public officials. This simply implies na nagnakaw sa kaban ng bayan ang pamilya nila,” Manuel added.
He said he will continue to oppose the bill during plenary debates.
"We really can’t explain to our young people and to the Filipino people kung paano kinikilala ng gobyerno ‘yung mga abuso ng batas militar, pero sa kabilang banda ay may mga hakbang tayo para makatulong na linisin ang reputasyon ni Marcos Sr. sa pagpapangalan ng ganitong unibersidad,” Manuel said.
Another bill seeking to rename the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines to the University of Science and Technology of the Philippines was approved by the committee.
The committee also approved measures seeking to strengthen the mental health services of state universities and colleges. It mandates the creation of mental health offices and the hiring of mental health professionals in SUCs.
"The COVID pandemic has highlighted a gap in our healthcare and educational system that affects the development of our youth, the lack of an institutional mental health support mechanism,” Tingog Rep. Jude Acidre said.
“In a research conducted among Filipino children aged 5 to 10, 10-15% are affected by mental health problems. According to the World Health Organization, 16.8% of Filipino students ages 13 to 17 attempted suicide at least once within a year before the 2015 global school based student health survey. In fact, mental health illnesses were ranked as the third most common form of morbidity among Filipinos,” he explained.
"We filed this way before the pandemic hit us, because nakita natin ‘yung need noong students sa state universities and colleges for additional mental health services,” Rep. Greg Gasataya added.
CHED Chairperson Prospero de Vera III, however, said the law requiring the completion of a master’s program before a graduate can secure license for guidance counseling, and the low salary offered to guidance counselors pose a challenge in hiring sufficient number of guidance counselors in SUCs.
"There is a problem in the law, because to become a guidance counselor, you must first have a master’s degree before you can take the licensure test. So there are few university that have masters programs in guidance and counseling, so those that do finish their masters and become licensed guidance counselors will not accept a position in a state university because it is salary grade 13. That’s very very low. The approximate salary of that is about P30,000,” de Vera said.
Acidre said bills seeking to address these have already been filed before the House of Representatives.
Marikina City 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo, meanwhile, proposed to allow public education institutions to hire college graduates who do not yet qualify as mental health professionals, but possess a background in psychology or similar fields.
This, provided that they receive appropriate training, that they will be supervised by qualified mental health professionals within the school’s division, and that they will secure a license within three years from their date of hiring.
"We understand that we need to uphold the standards of the profession… but there is a reality na kulang ang guidance counselors… we proposed some kind of a transitional provision,” Quimbo said.