Congressman on 'student labor' budget: Abad doesn't get the point

MANILA, Philippines – Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has defended the special provision under the proposed 2016 budget that authorizes state universities and colleges (SUCs) to "utilize" student labor for P25/hour, for a maximum of 4 hours a day.

During the House plenary debate on the SUCs' budget, Kabataan Representative Terry Ridon criticized the provision, likening it to polo y servicio, or the forced labor implemented during the Spanish occupation.

"If only Ridon did his research," Abad said in a statement sent to ABS-CBN News. "That's the problem with shooting from the mouth…. The Special Provision has been in our [General Appropriation Acts] since 1979."

But Ridon shot back at Abad, saying the budget secretary's problem is that "he doesn't get the point."

"It matters not whether the student labor provision has been in the GAA since the '70s. The role of students in the university is to study and contribute to changing society, not to do voluntary, manual labor of work that should be done by government contractors," Ridon told Rappler on Thursday, October 8.

Section 12 of the Special Provisions in the proposed SUCs budget allows schools to "avail [themselves of] the voluntary services of their students" in the following:

"They may likewise utilize student labor for academic, research, extension and administrative matters as part of practicum training subject to payment of P25/hour," the provision read. The hourly allowance actually increased from P10/hour in 20014, according to Abad.

He also reiterated that student labor in SUCs is voluntary, and was requested by the schools after students requested for opportunities "to practice for their vocational courses." (READ: Workers find ways: The OJT student)

But on Thursday, Ridon said this provision – regardless of whether it has been in place since the 1970s – should be removed from the budget. He questioned why construction and fabrication now qualify as practicum work for students.

"It is an incorrect policy which this government condones and continues," he told Rappler. –


Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.