Department of Agriculture

DA chief denies ‘erroneous’ reports on college degree, admits not finishing education

Iya Gozum

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DA chief denies ‘erroneous’ reports on college degree, admits not finishing education

OFFICIAL. Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. holds his first press briefing on November 6, 2023.

Ralf Rivas/Rappler

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. says he had to quit school at 19 to support his eldest child

MANILA, Philippines – Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. clarified on Monday, November 13, that he was not an alumnus of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) “or any other higher institute of learning.”

After Tiu Laurel’s appointment as the new secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), several news reports said he was a graduate of computer science at UST.

“That is not true,” Tiu Laurel said in a statement on Monday. The agriculture chief said he wanted to get a college degree, “but that wasn’t meant to be.”

“I never finished my education because I became a father at 19,” Tiu Laurel said. “I needed to work to support my eldest child. My father impressed upon me that my responsibility as a father comes first.”

Following reports of his supposed college degree, the UST registrar had clarified in a The Varsitarian report that Tiu Laurel was not a computer science alumnus and did not attend any of the university’s undergraduate programs. The Varsitarian earlier reported that Tiu Laurel was an alumnus.

Short bionotes in a 2016 document submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission and in a 2019 article from the University of the Philippines Visayas cited the erroneous detail on Laurel’s educational attainment.

Rappler has reached out to Tiu Laurel’s office to clarify details of his educational background but has yet to receive a response as of this writing.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. relinquished the DA post last November 3 to Laurel after serving as concurrent agriculture chief for more than a year.

A backgrounder given to reporters during Tiu Laurel’s appointment at Malacañang grounds did not mention his educational attainment. Only his birth date and professional experience were indicated on the sheet.

Instead, he said on Monday, the sea taught him what he needed to learn.

“The sea became my university, experiences in life taught me the value of perseverance, my children gave me the courage and inspiration to get to where I am now, and the good fortune I have today, I enjoy through God’s grace,” said Tiu Laurel.

Tiu Laurel was president of seafood company Frabelle Fishing Corporation. According to Malacañang, he has since divested his interests from the company to avoid conflict of interest. –

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.