Duterte fires CHEd chair, says many more to get ax
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday he had dismissed Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) Chair Patricia Licuanan, and that many more officials would follow her out the door.
“I have dismissed Licuanan today—the one in CHEd—the one in Marina (Maritime Industry Authority), he has tendered his resignation, and many will follow,” Mr. Duterte said in a speech in Davao City.
Mr. Duterte recently fired ranking government officials, including Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor Chair Terry Ridon and Marina Administrator Marcial Amaro III for frequently traveling abroad.
He said he was ready to terminate 49 police officers and “two or three generals” for misdeeds.
Earlier on Monday, Malacañang said Mr. Duterte had accepted Licuanan’s resignation but it declined to comment on her claim that she was pressured by the Palace to do so.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Licuanan’s decision to resign was “voluntary” and that he had “no information” on her claim that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea called her during the weekend and told her to resign.
Roque said the Palace received an e-mailed copy of Licuanan’s resignation letter at 8 a.m. on Monday and that a hard copy was expected.
The President has yet to decide who would replace Licuanan and that the most senior CHEd commissioner will take over “in an acting capacity” in the meantime, he said.
In December 2016, the Palace barred Licuanan, an appointee of former President Benigno Aquino III, from attending Cabinet meetings.
Earlier this month, Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Rep. Jericho Nograles accused the education official of traveling overseas eight times in 2017, seven of the trips on official business, allegedly without securing authorization from the Office of the President.
Nograles said Licuanan delegated herself as approving authority for her own requests for authorization to travel abroad.
Licuanan dismissed Nograles’ allegations, saying all her foreign trips were authorized by the President.
‘Time to go’
In a statement she read after the flag ceremony at the CHEd office on Monday, Licuanan said it was “time to go” after receiving a call from Medialdea over the weekend asking her to resign.
“While my term by law ends in July 2018, I have decided it is time to go,” she said, vehemently denying the accusations against her.
“It is time to resign as my continued presence in CHEd is inimical to the interest of the institution,” she said. “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 [the] media.”
Nograles welcomed her decision. “Licuanan did the right thing. I thank her for years of service [at] CHEd,” he said.
Sen. Bam Aquino, coauthor of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, commended Licuanan for her “immeasurable service” to students and for helping craft the free college education law.
He called on Mr. Duterte to appoint an immediate replacement for Licuanan who, he said, had the ability and will to effectively implement the law.
Sen. Francis Escudero, chair of the Senate committee on education, described her resignation as unfortunate, citing the reforms and the “good job” she had done.
“However, I respect her decision and wish her well in her future endeavors,” Escudero said.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said that while he and Licuanan had differences, he appreciated the CHEd’s speed in preparing the guidelines for the law’s full implementation on her watch.
“I hope that her sudden exit will not have a negative impact on the free college [education] policy at this critical stage of its implementation,” Gatchalian said. —With reports from Jocelyn R. Uy, Vince F. Nonato, Jovic Yee and Allan Nawal
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