CHED chair Patricia Licuanan resigns

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chairperson Patricia Licuanan resigned from her post on Monday, January 15.

Licuanan announced her resignation during the flag-raising ceremony at the CHED headquarters in Quezon City. She said she was asked to resign by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

"Over the weekend I received a call from Executive Secretary Medialdea asking me to resign as chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education.  While my term by law ends in July 2018, I have decided it is time to go," said Licuanan. 

"It has become obvious that there are persons determined to get me out of CHED by hurling false and baseless accusations against me in what appears to be a fishing expedition and a well-orchestrated move in media," she added.

This comes on the same day administration-allied Iligan Representative Frederick Siao was set to deliver a privilege speech and file a resolution calling for a congressional probe into the alleged delay of the release of the living allowances of 9,500 government scholars. 

Siao had previously suggested Licuanan to make an "honorable exit" from CHED over the issue. 

Licuanan admitted logistical issues had hampered the on-time release of the scholars' allowances, including their lack of requirements submitted to CHED. She added only around 4,000 scholars have not yet received their living allowances.

"I must strongly denounce malicious allegations of corruption and mismanagement of funds. It has been my personal commitment to stamp out corruption in CHED since day one, despite the odds and the strong resistance. The K to 12 Transition Program has been implemented with the highest level of ethical stewardship and every peso is accounted for," she said.

She has also recently been accused by PBA Representative Jericho Nograles, another majority lawmaker, of going on excessive trips in 2017, claiming she did not secure permission from Malacañang.

The former CHED chairperson, however, was able to produce her travel authoritization papers signed by Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra and acting Deputy Executive Secretary for General Administration Michael Ong.

Licuanan said her 8 trips were necessary as it was part of CHED’s mandate for internationalization and helped secure various scholarship and other educational opportunities for Filipino students. 

She wondered who gave Nograles her internal travel documents, which were used to secure permission from Malacañang.

"Only a few offices in CHED had access to these. These are internal documents to support the administrative release of funds and while I sign the internal document for my own travels, my signing is always based on an official travel authority from Malacanan. The question is, who put these together and who offered it to the congressman?" said Licuanan.

But Guevarra said presidential appointees like Licuanan cannot use travel authorities from the Office of the President as a defense for their overseas trips.  

He said Malacañang’s approval is just an “administrative matter,” with the responsibility to discern whether or not the official trip is unnecessary or excessive resting on the Cabinet official seeking travel authority. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has fired several officials for going on excessive trips abroad. He even said he would ban members of the executive branch of going on foreign travels this year.

The Duterte administration has been difficult for Licuanan, who was appointed by former president Benigno Aquino III in 2014 and whose term was supposed to end by July this year. 

She did not submit her courtesy resignation even if Duterte had issued a memorandum circular asking officials appointed by Aquino to resign.

Licuanan was then asked to stop attending Cabinet meetings in December 2016. 

She instead focused on her work at CHED, but she has faced opposition even within the commission. 

After she was barred to attend Cabinet meetings, then-CHED executive director Julito Vitriolo wrote a letter to Duterte asking him to appoint Commissioner Prospero de Vera III as CHED officer-in-charge instead. De Vera was appointed by Duterte.  

A power struggle had also happened in CHED late in 2017 when Vitriolo’s dismissal by the Ombudsman was overturned by the Court of Appeals, saying he was “reinstated immediately.” 

Licuanan refused to recognize Vitriolo, arguing Duterte had already appointed Karol Mark Yee in his place.

Read her full resignation speech below:

2018-01-15 CHED Chairperson Resignation Statement" src=" https://www.scribd.com/embeds/369151185/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-sATjhSBBN41M1g1ksacF&show_recommendations=true " data-auto-height="false" data-aspect-ratio="0.75" scrolling="no" id="doc_65966" width="100%" height="600" frameborder="0">

 – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.

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