Kristel’s legacy


The University of the Philippines was under fire. Kristel Tejada, a 16-year-old Behavioral Sciences major from UP Manila, had taken her own life shortly after filing a leave of absence because her family could not pay the tuition. Though it was not established that the direct cause of her suicide was the university’s policy of “no late payment,” UP and its STFAP (Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program) were pilloried. Critics called for the resignation of university officials, calling them “cold-hearted and ruthless.”

Various lawmakers called on UP to revisit the STFAP itself, saying the program no longer served its purpose. “We have to review our scholarship programs and even UP itself,” said Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III. Then Bayan Muna  Rep. Teddy Casiño challenged the Aquino administration to reinstate the P17 billion removed by the Department of Budget and Management from the proposed budget for state universities and colleges. “I never thought my beloved UP would become a University of the Privileged….” he said in a statement.

UP Manila denied the accusations, adding their own voices to those mourning Kristel’s death.

Adding a touch of irony to the tragedy, UP at the time was in the process of reforming its “no late payment” policy. The changes were geared toward simplifying the STFAP application process and increasing the financial aid for poor students. “I instructed the chancellors at our council meeting held last Thursday (a day before Kristel’s death) that we should not deny access to qualified students who cannot enroll because of financial constraints,” UP President Alfredo Pascual said.

“It is unfortunate it takes time to implement change,” Pascual rued. “We can easily be overtaken, as we have been, by a sudden turn of events. But I am confident we can turn the tragedy into a greater resolve to act and make UP accessible to the poor.”

The statement was made a day after Kristel’s death. The time to ask has come: Has anything changed?

The first, most immediate change was UP’s lifting of its draconian “no late payment” policy. UP Manila chancellor Manuel Agulto stated unequivocally, “Any student with financial constraints will no longer have any problems with regard to tuition-payment deadline.” The policy seems to have easily caught on with the Commission on Higher Education itself, which oversees higher education institutions (HEIs): “In no instance shall the HEI implement a ‘no permit, no examination’ policy in case of the financial incapacity of the students,” Chair Dr. Patricia Licuanan directed in a memorandum. Meaning, no enrolled college student may now be barred from taking a school test for failing to pay tuition.

Most recently and more noteworthy, an education loan fund has been put up apparently as a direct result of Kristel’s suicide. Bases Conversion and Development Authority president Arnel Paciano D. Casanova led the creation of the UP Educational Loan Project. A former working student, Casanova donated his own money to the program, saying, “there is a need to address the problem of students on access to financing. When they are in need, students are driven to despair [as they suffer] from the indignities caused by poverty.”

Casanova emphasized this is a loan program, not a charity. “We want to empower the students so they won’t think this is just charity. They will see this as investing in their own dreams. They have to work hard for it and, in a sense, it provides them a sense of dignity because they will not have to go begging.”

The Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Mutually Reinforcing Institutions will administer the loan fund. The Ramon Magsaysay award-winning microfinance institution is perfect for this job as it has a good track record as a lending entity (not a charity) that fights poverty.

Casanova notes this is just the beginning. “The greater vision is to replicate this project in the whole Philippines so it can have a greater impact,” he said.

We share in the vision and we do hope it will come true—soon, whether as a government program or a private initiative or a public-private partnership. For the longest time, students of poor families, not only those in UP but the far greater number enrolled in other HEIs all around the country, have had to contend with all sorts of bureaucratic ordeals to acquire the wherewithal to stay in school.

It’s too bad that a tragedy had to occur before the fund could be set up. The success of this fund may yet be the true legacy of Kristel Tejada.

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  • Guest

    This is another example of hypocrisy. A hypocrisy fatal enough to cause the death of a 16-year old girl. While this administration would not give up the pork barrel, it dropped the budget for state colleges and universities. To think, the budget would only cost the government coffers P17 billion. That is minute, not even a drop in the bucket, compared to the wasteful pork barrel perpetrated by PNoy and his administration. Perhaps it’s because PNoy never lacked for anything as the heir to a powerful haciendero clan and does not understand the pain and hopelessness that accompanies poverty. Perhaps Butch Abad has been in politics too long and learned to be insensitive. Whatever this administration’s excuses are for pushing Kristel to despondency and suicide, I hope they will prioritize the essentials during the congressional budget hearings. Mr. President, you have let us down big time in this pork barrel scam. Please don’t let us down again.

  • lucidlynx

    Rules are rules. If was that girl’s decision to kill herself. Nothing in the rule says that a person has to kill him/herself if he/she can’t abide by the rules.

    These politicians are just taking advantage of the situation. They don’t really care about the plight of poor families. Instead of criticizing U.P., why don’t they help the country in achieving economic prosperity for everyone?

    • Gerald Abueva

      Rules are rules. Marcos won the 1986 snap election according to the rules set by Marcos but we rose up against him and put Cory in power. We Filipinos are supposed to be subjects of the King of Spain according to royal decrees once upon a time, but we broke that too. We know Sereno failed her psychiatric test but we made exceptions because we support PNoy’s choice for the position of CJ. We know Mayor Lim screwed up big time in the Luneta Hostage Massacre based Jesse Robedo’s recommendation for Lim to be suspended but PNoy decided to scrap that recommendation. So don’t give us that blanket bullsh*t that rules are rules. Some spinster old maid like you may be in love with PNoy but not all of us share your ugly fantasies about him. Go fcuk yourself. Lucid is the last thing you are.

    • Guest

      Do you actually have a heart in your body? Maybe you are lucky there and never have faced a problem when it comes to money, that doesn’t mean that everyone is so fortunate. Rules are rules? What happens to understanding, compassion and being responsible for each other? Something wrong with that? Indeed, go F*CK yourself. I hope you will face one day something that is too hard for you to overcome. Heartless people like you are the cancer in our society.

      • Cano Manuel

        Suicide is not a solution to a problem. My parents came from poor families but never EVER let their poverty get in the way. The kid chose to kill herself, that’s her fault.

        I’ve seen so many students working at night to earn money for their tuition, and she kills herself that instantly! That’s a stupid plight from a so called “iskolar ng bayan”.

      • magsasakasanayon

        if a 16-year old kid chose to kill herself because of lack of money, it’s society’s fault. if you can’t understand that, you haven’t been educated at all. stop judging, you idiot.


    It is worse at the utmost extent that Kristel Tejada’s tragedy had to occur at a time that a substantial amount of the “pork” fund of our lawmakers is corrupted for the benefit of undeserving so few! Not so bad at all, but a noble deed, that a post-tragedy Educational Loan Fund was set up thru the initiative of BCDA President Arnel Paciano D. Cassanova.

  • Fulpol

    as a State University getting most of their fund from the gov’t, UP should be more flexible, considerate and kind..

    and they should be more quick in addressing petitions coming from students who questioned their bracketing in the STFAP.. now, it seemed it’s a matter of life and death ..

    UP socialist system is a failure… now a capitalist set up is taking in: capitalist banking system.. loan, borrowing..

    • Cano Manuel

      I see a lot of students working to earn money to pay for their tuition. Killing oneself is no solution to address her financial issues.

      May parents came from poor families, my mother had to work at night not only for her allowance but also to help her family for their daily expenses, yet she remained a scholar from elementary ’til she finished college. My father was from a poor family, too, yet remained one of the top in her school during his studies.

      Poverty should never be an excuse to kill herself. Suicide only makes things worse. Suicide is selfish. At such a young age, she might have been having psychological issues.

  • resortman

    My eldest daughter passed UPCAT, I was a proud father. My second daughter just took the exams, we hope she passes too. My eldest now takes an agricultural course in UPLB. I paid almost 24k for one semester. Im worried for my second daughter however, I am an OFW and my job is not that stable. How can a parent pay for almost 50k per semester? I thought since it is a national university I would be paying less to my dismay. My kids are capable, the eldest was a valedictorian and her sis is a valedictorian candidate also. They wanted agri courses explaining to me and my wife the importance of the course for the country’s future. I just wish I have been a congressman or senator, for sure money will not be an issue..or I could have worked in Customs..some guys have all the luck….

  • boybakal

    Life is a lifetime sacrifice, but to give up life for others is a death sacrifice.
    Kristel sacrifice her life for others to have better life.

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