DELIBERATIONS on the “Campus Press Freedom Bill,” which seeks to impose tougher sanctions on violators of the freedom of the press in schools, have been put on hold until a new draft of the bill is submitted, according to the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education (CHTE).

In a committee bulletin dated Oct. 22, CHTE chairman and Pasig Rep. Roman Romulo requested Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon, author of House Bill 1493 or the Campus Press Freedom Bill, to revise sections 7 and 8.

Section 7 mandates the school administration to collect publication fees during the enrollment period, while Section 8 states that the collected funds shall be given to the student publication within 15 days after the latest enrollment.

Romulo said that Ridon should also add a provision exempting student publications from government rules and regulations.

Other major provisions of the Campus Press Freedom Bill include a fine of P200,000 or five-year imprisonment for those who interfere in or restrain the work of campus journalists, mandatory establishment of at least one student publication in public and private educational institutions, mandatory allotment of an office and equipment to publications, freedom from any form of administrative intervention, and imposition of administrative sanctions for campus press freedom violations by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and the Department of Education.

Kabataan party-list Executive Vice President Marjohara Tucay told the Varsitarian in an interview that Ridon would pass the revised draft in December after the College Editors Guild of the Philippines and other school publications have submitted their position papers on the questioned provisions.

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Tucay said that the Campus Press Freedom Bill should guarantee school papers the funds due them because there have been previous cases when school administrators withheld funds.

“Dahil may mga kaso na hindi nire-release ‘yung pondo ‘nung publication kahit ni-request [na,] parang form ng campus press repression ‘yung pag-withhold ‘nung funds. There should be a provision safeguarding the release of funds,” Tucay told school paper editors and writers in a consultation meeting with CHTE last Nov. 20, adding that they might add provisions regarding the audit of funds.

Tucay, who is the former editor in chief of the Philippine Collegian of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, said retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno had advised him that publication funds are not public funds because they are merely collected in trust and are not officially part of the matriculation process.

Also present in the consultation meeting were editors and writers from several colleges and universities such as University of the Philippines-Manila, University of Santo Tomas, Philippine Normal University, and Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

In a hearing with the CHTE last Oct. 22, campus paper writers and editors called for changes in the Campus Journalism Act of 1991 to increase protection for student journalists.

A Teacher party-list Rep. Mariano Piamonte, Jr. said in the hearing that when a school collects publication fees from students, the money becomes part of the institutional fund.

“We cannot claim that once the funds are collected by the school, it totally belongs to the students. It is still the school fund not student funds,” he said.

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However, Ridon said in the previous CHTE meeting that schools should only act as collecting agents of the student publication.

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