Photo by Rey Baniquet/PPD
But plans for her to be edged out of Duterte’s official family had been percolating since, at the latest, September.
That month, a different education official took part in a foreign trip with the President though the official was of lower rank than Licuanan. Licuanan confirmed to Rappler that she was not invited to be part of the President's official delegation to the trip.
The official was asked by Duterte to explain the state of Philippine higher education to the country’s government, something Licuanan, as chairperson of the CHED since 2010, would have also been knowledgeable about, if not more so.
There had already been some small talk among other Cabinet officials that this person would soon find themselves taking Licuanan's seat at Cabinet meetings.
People close to Duterte may have already been sowing seeds of doubt about fixed-term officials like Licuanan.
Duterte himself admitted there were already whisperings about appointees from the previous administration, including Licuanan, in his inner circle.
But, at that time, he claims he refused to listen to the rumors.
“Ang iba puro intriga, ‘kasi yan hindi mo inappoint yan.’ Hindi ako nakikinig nang ganun. Right at the start wala akong ginawa. ‘Yan may fixed term yan pero hindi ‘yan tao mo ganun,’” he said during a press briefing in Lima, Peru on November 20.
(Others are full of intrigue, ‘Because you didn’t appoint that person.’ I don’t listen to them. Right at the start, I did nothing. ‘That person has a fixed term but they’re not part of your circle.’)
“Wala akong nasabi yung may fixed term, ‘yung sa – sino itong, 'yung isang babae diyan na mga kakilala ko sa mga Cabinet member ko?” Duterte asked reporters.
(I had no say about those with fixed terms, like, who is this woman who my Cabinet members know?)
One of them, suggested, “Licuanan, CHED?”
“Yeah, Licuanan. Pagsabi niya lang, pagsabi – sabi ko, [garbled] may fixed term, hayaan mo, pati yang… (When she says – I said [garbled] she has a fixed term, but you wait, even she…)” said Duterte, leaving his thought dangling.
Duterte is known to put a premium on trust and familiarity when it comes to people he works with. In the days leading to his inauguration, he defended his choice of Cabinet members from fierce critics by pointing out that he chose close friends so he could be assured of their trustworthiness.
Even his decision to finally let Robredo in his Cabinet had to be preceded by personal meetings between the two to break the ice.
Robredo managed to charm him but we all know how long the charm lasted.
Both Robredo and Licuanan, two women outside Duterte’s inner circle, have been unceremoniously removed from his official one. – Rappler.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.