VP Sara Duterte quits Cabinet in break with Marcos

VP Sara Duterte quits Cabinet in break with Marcos

Sara quits Cabinet in break with Marcos

STRAINED TIES Despite their strained political ties, President Marcos and Vice President Sara Duterte chat casually during the release of the Basic Education Report in Pasay City on Jan. 25, 2024. —Lyn Rillon

MANILA, Philippines—Vice President Sara Duterte on Wednesday ended months of speculation about her place in the Marcos administration by quitting as education secretary and vice chair of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac).

Duterte’s move to vacate her Cabinet post was the latest development in the breakdown of her alliance with Marcos. It came a week after she said that UniTeam, which propelled her and Marcos to victory in the 2022 elections, no longer existed as they were no longer candidates running for public office.


The Presidential Communications Office (PCO) disclosed her decision to reporters and on its Facebook page at around 2:40 p.m., barely 20 minutes after she submitted her “irrevocable resignation” letter to Marcos.


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“At 2:21 pm of 19 June 2024, Vice President Sara Duterte went to Malacañang and tendered her resignation as member of the Cabinet, secretary of the Department of Education and vice-chairperson of the NTF-Elcac, effective 19 July 2024,” PCO Secretary Cheloy Garafil said.

Garafil said Duterte “declined to give a reason” for her decision to step down from the Department of Education (DepEd) and the NTF-Elcac.

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“She will continue to serve as Vice President. We thank her for her service,” the PCO chief said in her brief statement.

30-day transition plan

In her letter, Duterte said she prepared a 30-day “transition plan” for DepEd’s academic strands and the different boards and councils chaired by DepEd and the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) “for a proper and orderly turn-over” to her successor.


As education secretary, Duterte served as president of the SEAMEO Council.

“I shall remain of service to the country through the various programs, activities and projects of the Office of the Vice President (OVP). I thank you for the opportunity to have served as a member of your Cabinet,” she told the President.

In her resignation letter, Duterte said she would continue her “services” and “projects” as Vice President.

Since her election in 2022, Duterte created over 10 satellite offices around the country as part of the OVP’s efforts to “extend” their “services” to Filipinos, such as the provision of burial and medical assistance.

Flagged by COA

But this was flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA), saying it bypassed the country’s procurement laws.

According to the OVP, the satellite offices were also part of another project to distribute school supplies packed in backpacks to students in several rural areas, called “PagbaBAGo.”

The OVP also has tree-planting projects and gift-giving to the LGBTQ community.

The PCO and DepEd did not reply to queries from reporters on whether Duterte met the President and personally handed him her resignation letter, what his reaction was, and whether he would appoint an officer in charge of DepEd.

Prior to her resignation, Duterte’s last known interaction with the President was at a May 21 meeting in Malacañang, where she presented options for changing the school calendar.

Before this, the two former allies were last seen together in public at the May 18 graduation rites of the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City.

What went before

Duterte’s relationship with Marcos became the subject of speculation since she quit the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats as its member and chairperson last year.

This was after the House demoted Duterte’s ally, former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to just one of the lower chamber’s deputy speakers. Arroyo previously held the post of House senior deputy speaker.

The Lakas-CMD is led by Speaker Martin Romualdez, Marcos’ cousin and Duterte’s campaign manager in the 2022 elections.

In mid-April this year, first lady Liza Araneta-Marcos admitted in an interview that she was hurt when the Vice President merely laughed at allegations that Mr. Marcos was stoned or under the influence of illegal drugs.

In an anti-Charter change rally in Davao City earlier this year, Duterte’s father, former President Rodrigo Duterte, accused Marcos of being “bangag” (stoned). On another occasion, he also called the President a “crybaby” for flying to the United States amid the Philippines’ escalating dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.

She ‘crossed the line’

Araneta-Marcos said the Vice President “crossed the line” by just laughing at her father’s claims, especially that the younger Duterte was an alter-ego and ally of Mr. Marcos as the education secretary.

The Vice President remarked that responding to the first lady’s personal feelings was not part of her mandate as a government official.

In comments to the media, the Chief Executive said his working relationship with Duterte remained the same, although he described his ties with the Duterte family as “complicated.”

Mr. Marcos also repeatedly stressed that he would keep Duterte as education secretary, as she was neither incompetent nor corrupt.

The President also took to social media to greet Duterte on her 46th birthday, May 31. He thanked her for her hard work and love of the country as education secretary.

First crack

The first crack in Marcos’s ties with Duterte may be traced to the early days of the administration, when he appointed Gilberto Teodoro Jr. as his defense secretary.

Months before the May 2022 elections, Marcos said that Duterte, a lawyer, wanted the post in case they won. He even said it was a “good idea.” But for undisclosed reasons, he chose Teodoro.

Reacting to the President’s decision, Duterte said, “seeing the way things are at the moment, I expect that people who want to see the new administration [fail] will fabricate intrigues about my loyalty and the DND position to break the UniTeam.”

“The UniTeam wants a stable Philippines and the most harmonious administration possible,” she said.

About a week before the two highest officials of the country took their oaths of office following the elections, the military formed a new unit called the Vice Presidential Security and Protection Group. Traditionally, the Presidential Security Group provides security for the two highest officials and visiting dignitaries.

Duterte acknowledged that a “request” was made to form such a unit in anticipation of “future elections” and the possibility of “strained relations” between the President and Vice President.

P650-M ‘secret funds’

Another major disappointment on Duterte’s part may have also been the lack of support from Malacañang as she battled criticisms from the public and Congress of her requests for confidential funds for DepEd and the OVP. As a result, Congress eventually scrapped P650 million in “secret funds” for her two offices.

Malacañang was mum during the deliberations for the 2024 budget, despite its quick approval of Duterte’s request for P125 million in confidential funds for the first six months they were in office in 2022. Duterte came under fire for using all the funds in just under two weeks.

In a speech on Oct. 4, 2023, she called critics of the proposed funding “enemies of peace” who had “insidious motivations.”

Resignation statement

In a statement she read at the DepEd central office in Pasig City, Duterte said she resigned not “out of weakness” but of “concern” for teachers and students and highlighted the changes and progress made in the agency under her two-year leadership.

She said that teachers were the “cornerstone” of any education system, and the projects done in schools for additional classrooms and the launch of a new curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 10 students were among the other changes implemented during her time as DepEd secretary.

“I did not do this alone, nor do I claim to have done so,” she said. “To our teachers, words can never capture how grateful the nation is for your sacrifices, for your passion, and for your unrelenting commitment to rearing the youth.”

She then disclosed that she had sought an audience with the President earlier in the day but did not say that they spoke with each other.

“My fellow Filipinos, my resignation was not out of weakness, but brought by my concern to teachers and to the Filipino youth,” Duterte said in Filipino.

“I may not be your education secretary anymore, but I will continue to be a mother—a mother that will continue to look after the welfare of every teacher and student in the country,” she said.

Not taking questions

She did not ask reporters any questions and left after reading her statement.

In a message to reporters later in the day, DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa said that they would not be taking questions about Duterte’s resignation “during the transition period” with the new upcoming DepEd secretary.

In recent months, Duterte has made public statements contradicting the administration’s policies.

Last December, Duterte openly opposed holding “exploratory talks” between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on a possible peace deal.

The government and the NDFP signed the Oslo Agreement and both parties agreed to develop a framework that could eventually lead them back to the negotiating table.

Reds, Cha-cha, China

The Vice President, known for making Red-tagging remarks, urged the President to reconsider the exploratory talks and reject an “agreement with the devil.”

She questioned granting amnesty to rebels, saying it was “not the path to peace.”

Duterte opposed the campaign for a Charter change through people’s initiative led by Romualdez and called on Filipinos to “safeguard” the 1987 Constitution, which her father once wanted to revise during his administration.

As for the criminal charges against televangelist Apollo Quiboloy, a staunch supporter of the Dutertes, the Vice President condemned the hearings in the Senate on his cases, as well as the recent attempt by the police to serve an arrest warrant on the fugitive in Davao City.

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While she wailed against Quiboloy’s plight, her critics say she has not spoken against China’s incursions into the West Philippine Sea and attacks against Filipino fishermen and resupply missions for troops at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal. —with a report from Inquirer Research

TAGS: DepEd, NTF-ELCAC, Sara Duterte

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