Malacañang warned Licuanan of ‘worse’ to come if she doesn’t resign

MANILA, Philippines – Patricia Licuanan said Malacañang had warned her more allegations will be thrown at her if she did not resign as chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

In a Rappler Talk interview on Tuesday, January 23, Licuanan recounted the phone call she received last week from Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea asking her to resign from President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet.

She said Medialdea called her when he and Duterte were both in Davao del Norte, where lawmakers were reporting alleged corruption allegations against her to the President. 

“I initially, of course, protested. I tried to say that you know, those accusations are all false. I’ve already proven them false so I don’t see why I should resign. Then he went on to say things will get worse, that there will be more,” said Licuanan.

Licuanan stepped down from her post on January 15, the first regular working day after Medialdea called her that weekend.

January 15 was on the same day Iligan Representative Frederick Siao was scheduled to deliver a privilege speech against Licuanan and file a resolution calling for a probe into the delayed living allowances of CHED teacher-scholars.

He claimed 9,500 government scholars, his constituents included, still have not received their allowances from CHED. Licuanan already explained this is an exaggerated number, as only half of the 9,500 scholars have not yet received their allowances. 

The delay was caused by incomplete or discrepancies in the requirements submitted by the scholars as well as the lack of CHED’s manpower to process these requirements. (READ: 2,152 gov’t scholars to get delayed allowance by December 29 – CHED)

PBA Representative Jericho Nograles also accused Licuanan of going on excessive foreign trips without permission from Malacañang.

Licuanan, however, was able to produce her travel authorization papers from the Office of the President. 

She explained her trips were necessary as these helped secure more scholarship and other educational opportunities for CHED scholars.

“Actually what it was is that they really wanted me to resign, and that things would really be quite difficult in the sense that I would be spending so much of my time –which should be more productively spent – fending off these false accusations,” said Licuanan.

No talks with Duterte

She had been asked to resign via two memorandum circulars issued by Duterte ordering appointees of former president Benigno Aquino III to resign in August and December 2016

She said she did not follow the memorandum as she wanted to the “defend the principle of a fixed term.” She was banned from attending Cabinet meetings in December 2016 as well.

Licuanan was first appointed by Aquino in 2010. She was re-appointed in 2014, with her last term ending in July 2018. 

“At that time, it was very important that I defend the principle of a fixed term. So it’s very clear because the drafters of the CHED law put that in, that they would have a fixed term with a maximum term of 4 years each. They did that because they did not want the CHED, higher education, to be politicized. I thought there was a good reason for us [to stay],” said Licuanan. 

“So I fought to preserve that. But at this stage now, it was less the term [ending]. It was really [because] they wanted me out. And I felt, with resignation, the principle of a fixed term is still preserved because I resigned and he accepted my resignation,” she added.

Licuanan, however, has still not been given the chance to personally explain her side to Duterte. 

“But even after I resigned, [I told Medialdea] I would like to talk to him (Duterte). So he said, well he’ll try to arrange it. That hasn’t happened,” said Licuanan.

She doubts she will be able to talk to the President soon. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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