Pangilinan: Education, not wealth, makes you richer

Kim Arveen Patria
Kim Arveen Patria
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom
Tycoon Manny Pangilinan listens to questions during a forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines on January 17, 2012. Pangilinan leads a Philippine consortium which insists that a gas project in the disputed South China Sea can only work with the involvement of a Chinese firm

A business tycoon has joined calls to ensure broader access to state education, as he noted that both government and private sector "disappoint" young Filipinos who deserve to be in school.

Speaking to graduates of the Philippine Women's University Saturday, telecommunications magnate Manny Pangilinan said the death of Kristel Tejada should remind Filipinos of the importance of state education.

Pangilinan was referring to the 16-year-old behavioral science freshman at the University of the Philippines Diliman who took her own life Mar. 15, days after filing for leave of absence.

"I would not surmise, much less judge, the realities which drove this promising, young lady to take her own life.  I am sure things are more complex than we know," Pangilinan said.

He nonetheless added: "But of this we are certain--education should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few."

Related: After student's suicide, UP lifts 'no late payment' policy

Tejada's death has sparked a heated debate on state education in the Philippines, with groups blaming strict tuition policies for worsening the student's financial woes.

Protests have meanwhile forced UP officials to lift its "no late payment" policy and vow for reforms in the state-run school's Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP).

But militants instead demanded a total repeal of the STFAP and an across-the-board tution rollback, along with the resignation of officials involved in Tejada's case.

In other news: Why Aquino vetoed Magna Carta for the poor

For his part, Pangilinan said Tejada's suicide "devastated all of us--you as students, and us, your elders--because we all know that we continue to disappoint millions of young Filipinos who deserve their education."

"If we continue on this path, we will ultimately fail our own future," said the head of the Philippine Long Distance Telecommunication Co. and TV 5, among other firms.

Noting that he himself "was not born to a life of privilege or pedigree," Pangilinan said graduates are "richer than most Filipinos, simply for having received a quality education."

He added: "Which means that the same question constantly asked of me must be asked of you now: how much of your blessings will go to helping Filipinos uplift their welfare?"

Also read: A phone call may help prevent suicide

Tejada was laid to rest Saturday, her hearse accompanied by her family and friends, as well as UP students and faculty who had called her death a wake up call.

In a statement released for the funeral, UP President Alfredo Pascual said: "With all UP stakeholders collectively working towards reform, I am confident we can soon truly say that no qualified student is denied education in UP because of financial reasons."

"Soon we can claim that UP, the country's national university, has indeed become the University of the People," Pascual added.

Related slideshow: UP student's death sparks education debate