On Kristel Tejada’s suicide

Kristel Tejada, a 16-year-old first year behavioral science student from the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila, committed suicide early Friday morning. Tejada has been asked by her home college to go on a leave of absence (LOA) for the current semester last March 13 because of her inability to pay the required matriculation fee in full.

Citing Article 335 of the UP System Code, Dr. Marie Josephine de Luna of UP Manila’s Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, released last October a memorandum stressing to all faculty members that students who are not “duly matriculated” should not be allowed to attend classes and must be removed from their class list. De Luna added that such students should instead be “advised” to go on leave. Professor Carl Marc Ramota, chair of UP Manila’s social sciences department, uploaded pictures of the said memo here and here.

kristel tejada
Kristel Tejada of University of the Philippines-Manila

‘No permit, no exam’

As soon as the scheduled day for the final examination (or any major exam, for that matter) is announced, students and their parents across the country are faced with a dreaded but unavoidable situation – the need to pay school fees on time. This is especially true in private higher education institutions (HEIs). For countless families, raising the needed amount can be extremely tough. Other problems, like delays in money remittance, may also pop out.

Teachers, on the other hand, also have their own dilemma. Out of humaneness, most teachers will instinctively let students take an exam even if they don’t have a permit. In an attempt to address this situation, school administrators are adamant in reminding members of the faculty about the “no permit, no exam” policy.

Once students settle all their financial obligations to the school for the semester, the Office of the Registrar will issue to them a test permit. This, in turn, will be shown to the test proctor during the exam day. Ergo, students who are not yet fully paid should not be allowed to take the exam.

Most parents blame teachers for the situation, which is unfair. Teachers implement their school’s “no permit, no exam” policy because they don’t have a choice. Who wants to be charged with insubordination? Will you bite the hand that feeds you?

The government, through the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), prohibits the implementation of such a policy. In Article XX, section 99 of CHED’s Manual of Regulations for Private Higher Education, it is stated: “No (HEI) shall deny final examinations to a student who has outstanding financial or property obligations, including unpaid tuition and other school fees corresponding to the school term.”

Schools are nevertheless allowed to withhold the final grades or refuse re-enrollment of those students. In such a case, teachers must make sure that their final grades are “duly recorded and submitted to the registrar together with the final grades of the rest of the students.” In a memorandum order issued in 2010, then CHED Chair Emmanuel Angeles ordered HEIs to extend “utmost flexibility” in the implementation of the said policy.

Angeles stressed that students should be allowed to execute a promissory note guaranteed by their parents. And in an attempt to ease concerns by school owners about students not paying their incurred debts, Angeles noted that HEIs have the right to withhold the release of issuance of a student’s clearance before graduation until all accountabilities are settled. Evidently, there is a way to balance a school’s financial interests and students’ rights.

In the current Congress, legislators led by Kabataan party list Rep. Raymond Palatino filed House Bill (HB) 4791 which seeks to punish schools that are implementing the “no permit, no exam” policy. The House of Representatives has passed the bill in third and final reading in 2011 but it failed to gain traction in the Senate. Download HB 4791 here.

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Mark Pere Madrona

The Filipino Scribe (TFS) is managed by Mark Pere Madrona, a multi-awarded writer and licensed professional teacher from the Philippines. Mr. Madrona earned his master’s degree in history from the University of the Philippines-Diliman last 2020. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in journalism cum laude from the same university back in 2010. His area of interests includes Philippine journalism, history, and politics as well as social media. Know more about him here: https://www.filipinoscribe.com/about/.

28 thoughts on “On Kristel Tejada’s suicide

  1. I agree with you Ismael. During his university days, my dad was a working student — supporting himself, his parents and 5 siblings — and he was not allowed to take the exam one time because his money was 8 pesos short. That was in the 1960’s. It’s 2013 now.

  2. UP – a university which is supposed to breed students with integrity and love for fellow men. Look at what it has done. It has made a mockery of its system. A life has to be lost, a family has to suffer before a realization will take place. I hope that Kristel Tejada did not die in vain and her death will serve as a wake up call to our policy makers.

    1. UP did not kill this girl. Untreated clinical depression killed her. A chemical imbalance in her brain killed her.

      1. Because Bruce once committed suicide and the reason is a chemical imbalance on his brain. luckily he survived and want to do it again, until he succeeds.

  3. What a loss of life and precious talent? I thought the UP system has all the resources to handle tough challenges and decisions like this one. The Dean and those who support this policy, were most likely raised by filthy rich parents with no idea what poor people go through! The Dean should be proud of her accomplishment!

  4. Regardless of whether the tuition rules are just or not, her suicide was not caused by it. Suicide is nearly always the result of clinical depression that has gone untreated. Clinically depressed people have a physical illness. They have a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is more that just a mental state, more than just “feeling blue”. There is a real, physical, chemical problem that needs real, physical, chemical medication to treat. If it wasn’t this excuse, her sick brain would have used another one — or none at all — to get the same result.

    The real tragedy here is that this girl had a medical illness that went untreated. She needed pills. She didn’t get them.

    1. Assuming that she has a sick brain, it is UP Manila’s heartless act which triggered ger suicide. I guess you’re just one of the thousands of Filipino doctors who dispensed drugs in exchange for goodies from big, evil pharmaceutical companies. Tsk, tsk, poor Filipinos who believe in conventional doctors who never know that pills kill!

      1. @ evildocs: what Bruce is trying to say is that depression is actually an illness that can be treated. The supposed “trigger” which is her inability to pay her fees shouldn’t be blamed since she probably had this problem for at least 6 months. Besides, if she really WANTED to study, she had many options: 1. pursue her degree somewhere affordable, 2. Studied hard for a scholarship, 3. Worked part-time. Honestly, suicide is never an answer to any problem. And evildocs, you are such a fail for your unsupported, generalized statement on Filipino doctors. Shame on you!

  5. Kristel
    (For Kristel Tejada)

    By Apolinario Villalobos

    Isang batang may payak na pangarap
    Na parang bulang nawala sa isang iglap
    Piniling wakasan ang mahalagang buhay
    Hindi niya nakayanan ang bigat ng lumbay.

    Sa YUPI* nag-aral SANA bilang iskolar
    Kaya sa murang gulang, sipag ay pinairal
    Subali’t iba kung humagupit ang kahirapan
    Taglay na talino, di pinahalagahan ng paaralan.

    Kung ituring siya ay iskolar dapat ng bayan
    Subali’t ni minsan, ito’y di niya naramdaman
    Sa murang gulang, laging nagtatanong, may luha
    “Makapag-aral lang, bakit kailangan pang magdusa”?

    Mga magulang, sa kanila’y di nagkulang ni minsan –
    Sa kanilang magkakapatid, na nakitaan ng katalinuhan
    Ang amang paminsan-minsan may naipapasadang taksi
    Palaging dasal na sana malakas ang kita, may perang maiuwi.

    Binayarang pagka-iskolar sa kabila ng kanilang kahirapan
    Obligasyong ni sa hinagap ng magulang ay di tatakbuhan
    Subali’t sa napakaliit na dahilang naantala ang pagbayad nila
    May pinagawa pang “letter of repentance”, wala ring halaga!

    Bakit ang isang Kristel, kailangan pang sa mundo’y mawala
    Maipakita lang na nangingibabaw sa mundo, pagkagahaman sa pera?
    Nasaan ang puso, pang-unawa, at damdamin ng mga taong iniluklok?
    Na sana’y makakaagapay, o talaga kayang sagad sa buto na ang pagkahayok?

    *University of the Philippines-Manila.

    (Nayanig ang Pilipinas sa balitang may isang batang nagpatiwakal gamit ang lasong panlinis ng pilak. Hindi daw makapagpatuloy ng pag-aaral dahil walang pambayad sa matrikula. May mga nagsisi sa mga magulang na nagpabaya, may mga nagsabi na mababaw na dahilan ang pagpapakamatay. Sa banding huli, nalaman na may pambayad naman pala, nguni’t naantala lamang kaya hindi tinanggap ng paaralan. May nagsabi pa na nanikluhod ang ina sa chancellor ng paaralan subalit wala ring nangyari, pati na ang pagpapasulat ng “letter of repentance” (na ewan kung ano ito, bakit hindi na lang promissory note). Sa isang batang batang may pangarap sa buhay at alam niyang kaya niyang abutin ito dahil sa paniniwala sa taglay niyang talino, ang sama ng loob ay hindi niya kayang isigaw. Sa murang edad, siya ay hindi pa nalalantad sa masalimuot na buhay sa mundo – na kailangan mong maging palaban at matapang upang malampasan ang mga pagsubok. Sa malumanay na pananalita ng ina, mararamdaman ang kababaan niya ng loob na maaring ginamit niya sa paghubog sa kanilang mga anak, kasama na si Kristel.)

  6. Bruce, what triggered her depression? It could have been prevented if only she was given the chance.

  7. so very sad but i find it abit selfish of her to do this.didnt she think of the parents ,siblings she will leave behind?but i guess desperation can drive one to do desperate things..but suicide is never the answer to problems.

  8. I commiserate with the family but the school should not be blamed. What Kristel did was her own decision and surely, the faculty is one in grieving for her untimely death!

  9. Perhaps the university issue was the trigger but I agree with those who say there were more underlying reasons. I gather from interviews with her parents that they once were well-off. In fact, there was no need for Mrs. Tejada to work because her husband could provide for her. This means for a time, Kristel lived a privileged life and suddenly being thrown into poverty will be very traumatic for a 16 year old. Did she have someone to help her cope with the difficult situation? Persons contemplating suicide usually exhibit tell-tale signs. It is ironic that this suicide was committed by a Behavioral Science student.

  10. I hope people would stop blaming UP or the system for what happened to Kristel and try to figure out that maybe she had other problems as well. It’s as simple as this, if I can’t afford UP, I’d study elsewhere, I’d work. There is nothing honorable with committing suicide for it is not the answer to a problem that has many solutions.

  11. I have coined a theme for UP student to advocate in remembrance of Kristel TEJADA: Tuition Expense Justly Assessed for Destitute Academic Scholar (Acronym TEJADAs)

  12. @ vie it is easy to say that,,, do you know kristel personally? she is only 16 ,she is not that yet mature to face challenges on her life even she is a bright student could u compare your age to her,, its easy to say that because you are not in her situation, She just need 10 thousand pesos during that time. OMG ,,will someone give you a job if you are still minor?? pathetic vie you don’t know what you saying going to a different school for what ??? to have less tuition fee??? r u kidding me,, what school??? can’t you see she can’t afford 10 thousand psos only and you advice her to transfer,,vie befor u comment you should read the articles about he first her age her status and the story behind her.

  13. Well, for me its thi simple. Reading all your comments aside, I could say that both parties have mistakes in this happening. On the school’s side, they shouldve considered there students who are unable to pay because of financial and greater problems. The system doesnt really help me the poor. UP should be firm to the fact that this students are “scholar ng bayan”. On kristel’s side, maybe its about relying to God more and waking her subconscious mind that suicide will only worsen the case. I dont know her personally and I cant blame her, but again and again, why commit suicide? UP is not worth dying for. There will always be an option. This should be a lesson to be universities and students.

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