I dropped out of school to be a father at 19 – Agriculture chief Laurel | Inquirer News

I dropped out of school to be a father at 19 – Agriculture chief Laurel

Franciso Tiu Laurel Jr. —Photo from Department of Agriculture FB page

Agriculture Secretary Franciso Tiu Laurel Jr. (Photo from the Facebook page of the Department of Agriculture)

MANILA, Philippines — Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. said he was not able to finish his studies because being a father at an early age took precedence over earning a college degree.

Laurel, who headed the Frabelle Group of Companies prior to his appointment two weeks ago, issued this statement on Monday after questions surfaced about his educational qualifications.


The new agriculture chief said he dreamed of wearing a graduation gown and receiving a diploma just like many other students but he felt it was not “meant to be” because his work and family obligations prevented him from doing so.


“Let me clear the air about my educational background given news reports that claim I am an alumnus of the University of Santo Tomas (UST), or any other institution of higher learning. That is not true,” Laurel said in a statement.

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

The Inquirer has reached out to both the offices of the registrar and public affairs of the UST to confirm whether Laurel is an alumnus of the College of Engineering. The latter said it would issue an official response on the matter soon, but it has yet to reply at press time.

The report about Laurel being disowned by the UST first came out on the Varsitarian, the university’s official student publication on Sunday.

According to Varsitarian’s report, Assistant Registrar Kashmer Cruz, citing office records, disproved claims that Laurel obtained a computer science degree from the then Faculty of Engineering. The degree is now under the College of Information and Computing Sciences.

“Based on our records in the Office of the Registrar, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. is not a UST Computer Science alumnus,” Cruz said in the report.


‘My university was the sea’

Laurel, the childhood pal and among the biggest campaign contributors of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., was the president of the deep sea fishing company Frabelle Fishing Corp. before the latter appointed him to the top Department of Agriculture (DA) post.

Even if he quit school to raise his eldest child, Laurel said he helped build his family’s flagship company Frabelle which expanded from a simple fishing operation to a conglomerate.

“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,” he added.

Today, Frabelle is also engaged in power generation, real estate development, meat and seafood processing, cold chain network, aquaculture, and shipbuilding and repair.

Laurel, who divested of his interests in his family’s company following his appointment on Nov. 3, earlier denied allegations that his new role in the Marcos administration was a “payback” for his significant contribution to his longtime friend’s presidential bid.

“Definitely, there’s no payback. As I said, [this is a] sacrifice. This is for the country,” he said.

“The DA is a full-time job. I have no time to do anything else. The department is huge, it is somewhat complicated. This is a full-time job. I don’t have much time to think about other things,” he said.

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“When I was asked by the President to join the DA, I actually hesitated a couple of times. At the end of the day, [I was challenged] to do something for the country,” he added.

TAGS: Department of Agriculture, Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr.

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