Duterte fired Licuanan over 'frequent' travels, delay in students' allowances

FOR COMMITMENTS. Former Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Patricia Licuanan says her overseas trips were necessary to secure scholarship opportunities for Filipinos. File photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

FOR COMMITMENTS. Former Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Patricia Licuanan says her overseas trips were necessary to secure scholarship opportunities for Filipinos.

File photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday, February 6, that he had fired former Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chairperson Patricia Licuanan for "monthly" travels and for delays in the release of students' allowances.

"Licuanan, every month lumalabas, eh kasi sa CHED daw kailangan ng edukasyon. Huwag mo ako bolahin," said Duterte during the anniversary of the National Economic and Development Authority.

(Licuanan traveled every month supposedly because the CHED needs it for educational initiatives. Don't fool with me.)

He also blamed Licuanan for the delays in the living allowances of thousands of scholars.

In typical fashion, Duterte was vague in how exactly Licuanan's policies in CHED led to these late releases.

"No'ng nakita ko 'yung mga allowances ng mga scholar eh kasi ginano'n niya 'yung pera, nahulog, nag-devolve do'n sa different mainline agencies. She gave an order na mapunta lahat sa – eh 'di 6 years pending," said the President.

(When I saw the allowances of the scholars, because she did something with the money, it was devolved to different mainline agencies. She gave an order for it to go to – so it was pending for 6 years.)

Duterte compared Licuanan's policies with those supposedly of CHED Commissioner Prospero de Vera III who he had picked as officer-in-charge to take over Licuanan's responsibilities.

Duterte said De Vera gave the allowances to the schools.

De Vera told Rappler that when he took over CHED, he instructed universities to be the point of contact of scholars asking for their allowance in order to improve a system in which the scholars would approach CHED's central or regional offices.

"We make the universities responsible for completion of documents and reporting to CHED. We have moved the payment of stipends to the CHED regional offices and eventually through the universities so that the scholars do not have to go to CHED offices," said De Vera.

In his Tuesday speech, the President accused Licuanan of having been "up to something."

"I know na walang resulta 'yung ginagawa mo, puro kalokohan (what you did bore no results, it was all foolishness)," said Duterte.

Back in December 2017, Licuanan had admitted that logistical issues hampered the release of the scholars' allowances.

These include CHED's internal system that is unfit to handle the high number of documents to be processed, incomplete grades and requirements submitted by the scholars, and additional requirements prescribed by the Commission on Audit.

She also said then that CHED was hiring more personnel and improving coordination with its regional offices to fast-track the process.

When she resigned from CHED, following a call from Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, she denied all the accusations.

"I must strongly denounce malicious allegations of corruption and mismanagement of funds," Licuanan had said.

She also maintained that Malacañang had approved all of her travels and that those trips helped secure scholarships and other educational opportunities for Filipino students. (READ: Licuanan says exec director Vitriolo helped kick her out of CHED– Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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