Joel Villanueva quits TESDA, prepares for Senate bid

MANILA, Philippines – Secretary Joel Villanueva on Friday, October 9, resigned from his post as Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General, as he prepares his bid for the Senate in 2016.

“Thank you for believing in my potential to be an instrument in transforming lives. This gives me the fortitude to move ahead in the next sphere of public service. It is an honor to have been part of this administration,” Villanueva said in his resignation letter, which he submitted to the office of President Benigno Aquino III on Friday.

Villanueva had earlier announced he would be running for senator in 2016, during the same event wherein Aquino endorsed his candidacy. The outgoing TESDA chief will be part of the ruling Liberal Party (LP)’s slate, although he is also open to being a “shared candidate” of other presidential candidates.

Villanuena, a close friend of Aquino's, had been vocal about his discomfort over joining the ruling party's slate over two issues: the inclusion of outgoing Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and certian factions within the LP who are supposedly not in favor of the TESDA chief. 

In a chance interview with reporters on Thursday, October 8, Villanueva said "there’s no such thing as a perfect set-up" when asked about the possibility of running alongside De Lima, who approved the filing of cases against Villanueva for his alleged misuse of pork barrel funds. 

Asked about supposed factions within the LP against him, Villanueva said: "Hindi po ako magpapaapekto sa kahit kanino, sinong grupo, o isa dalawang tao na magdidistract kung ano ang nais kong gawin at nais kong dalhin sa ating mga mamamayan,” he said. (I will not allow myself to be affected by anyone, any group, any one or two persons... [I will not allow them] to distract me from what I want to give our countrymen.)" 

Aquino has been all praises for Villanueva, who had earlier planned to run for Senate in 2013. 

"Sabi ko kay Joel, 'Hindi kaya, brother, palampasin muna natin itong 2013. Isagad muna ‘yung magagawa mo sa TESDA,'" said Aquino in a speech before TESDA scholars. (I told Joel, let 2013 pass for now. Let's make the most of your time in TESDA.)

The President credits Villanueva for turning TESDA around in his 5 years as its chief.

"Sa loob ng limang taon, napalitan niya ang mukha ng TechVoc. Mula dati, parang puntahan ng walang kapag-a-pagasa. Ngayon, iyon ang daan para mas malaki ang suweldo mo sa Pangulo ng Republika," he said. 

(In 5 years, Villanueva changed the face of Technical Vocation. Before, it was where the hopeless went. Now it's a means to get a salary higher than that of the Philippines President.) 

"Buo ang tiwala ko: Si Joel ang pinunong kailangan ng bayan, na tiyak nating mas marami pang matutulungan at mapapaunlad na kabuhayan, oras na maluklok sa mas mataas na katungkulan," said Aquino. (I have complete faith that Villanueva is a leader this country needs, that more people will be helped, more lives will be improved the moment that he is elected into higher office.) 

The latest Pulse Asia survey puts Villanueva at the 25th-27th percentile with 12.6% of respondents saying they would vote for him.

The ruling party is set to announce its full Senate slate on Monday, October 12. The filing of candidates for the 2016 elections also begin the same day and will continue until October 16, Friday. – Rappler.com