In many of his speeches, he has always portrayed himself as the father of the nation, especially the youth, but President Rodrigo Duterte
seems to have not impressed his "children." This week, when the president delivered his third State of the Nation address, thousands of students in cities across the country took to the streets to protest. "We just want a leader, a compassionate and competent one," said Dean Lacandazo, a student at a university in the central Philippines. Jastine Domdom, another youth leader, said Duterte is "not a true father" but an "embarrassment to real fathers who work hard for their children." The students are not impressed with the president's directive to provide free tuition to all Filipinos who want to go to college.
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"Education remains inaccessible to the youth, especially the poor," said Mira Legion, chairwoman of the youth group Anakbayan in the Eastern Visayas region. She said thousands of students failed to avail the free tuition either because they were disqualified from availing of the grant or are enrolled in private schools. Legion said Duterte's free tuition offer
"falls short in truly making education free." She cited provisions in the law that provides "donation" schemes in schools and a "return service system" for students. "These are manifestations that the law does not provide the free education that students have clamored and fought for," she said. The students also protested the increase in tuition and other school fees in private schools that are approved by the Department of Education. Ella Gaile Uy, an 18-year-old college student, said that while she can receive free tuition, her family is burdened by the increasing prices of basic commodities. Uy, the eldest among three siblings, said she takes food to school to save money. "My daily allowance is [US$1.30]," said the girl whose parents work as a maid and a driver. Tax reforms
implemented by the Duterte administration has caused an increase in the price of almost all commodities, including school supplies. Jireh Escanillas, who stopped in her studies, said the problem among many young people is money. "There is only one thing that I would like to tell the president, and that would be to make education available to all," she said. Fidelino Josol, a 50-year-old public schoolteacher, said the problem with Duterte is he "lives on hype, on promises." "I voted for him because he sounded firm and full of convictions," said Josol, but added that Duterte's promises "all went down the drain." Benjo Basas, chairman of the Teachers' Dignity Coalition, said that during the election campaign in 2016, Duterte promised to give teachers a US$200 across the board pay increase. "After two years, the increase in our salaries is pegged under the context of the salary standardization law that only provides for little more than a US$10 increase from 2016," said Basas. "While there are occasional pronouncements, these are not manifested in policies," he said, adding the the president should invest more on education and other social services. The teacher remains hopeful that the president will come good on his promise.