Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros has asked the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) to investigate the alleged existence of “ghost scholars” under the government’s free college tuition program.
The senator said she got wind of the alleged anomaly under the CHEd’s scholarship program which is mandated by Republic Act (RA) 10931 or the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act,” after her office received complaints from students.
“This is a serious allegation that CHEd must investigate,” the opposition senator said.
CHEd Chairman J. Prospero de Vera 3rd, however, denied the allegations.
He pointed out that there have always been complaints hounding the government’s social welfare programs, and the best way to resolve it is to look at the evidence.
“I have asked Senator Hontiveros to submit the names and the documents to us so we can go over it one by one, but we have not received any documents to investigate,” de Vera told reporters on Wednesday.
The CHEd chairman gave his assurance that they will immediately look into the matter once they get hold of the names of the alleged “ghost scholars.”
“It’s very easy to accuse, but we can only decide based on evidence and investigation,” de Vera said.
In Tuesday’s Senate hearing on CHEd’s proposed P30.7 billion budget for 2023, Hontiveros said her office was swamped with complaints surrounding the disbursement of the scholarship program.
“Almost 400 students have sent complaints to my office that they have not received their education subsidy,” she said.
She added, “In addition to this, there were complaints of (There were complaints of) ‘ghost scholars’ who receive (who receive) tuition reimbursement of students who have already graduated (of students who have already graduated).”
Hontiveros asked CHEd officials to unmask the individuals who received the fund on behalf of the “real” scholars.
According to the senator, CHEd reportedly has a three-year “backlog” in the release of funds intended for the scholars.
“Where is the fund?” she asked.
Hontiveros noted that the concerned students who have sent their complaints via electronic mail have requested that their identities be withheld.
“There is a real climate of fear among students, and we at the Senate should find out who is instigating it,” she said.