Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) Chairwoman Patricia Licuanan has defended her foreign trips, after a congressman accused her of failing to secure permission from the President.
In a statement on Saturday, Licuanan said she in fact obtained travel authority from the Office of the President for her trips.
“I get a travel authority from the Office of the President for all my travel including personal trips,” Licuanan said. “I issue travel authorities for all CHEd officials, but not for myself.”
On Friday, Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Rep. Jericho Nograles accused Licuanan on Facebook of usurping her authority by approving her own trips, without the approval of Malacañang.
“Did CHEd Chairperson Licuanan usurp the power of President Rody Duterte by approving her own travel authority contrary to EO 459 (series of 2005)?” Nograles asked on Facebook, while showing documents claiming that Licuanan approved her own trips to the United States, Canada, Thailand, France, Taiwan and Singapore.
Executive Order 459, series of 2005, says that members of the Cabinet, government-owned corporations, and heads of agencies under the Office of the President need to seek approval of the Office of the President before going abroad.
Licuanan rebuffed Nograles, saying: “It appears that what Rep. Nograles shared on his Facebook account as basis for his accusations in the internal authority to travel abroad, which is routinely used to process the funds and is an attachment for securing Malacañang approval,” she said.
In documents sent to The Manila Times, Licuanan’s eight official trips from March to November 2017 were approved by Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra. Her trip to Taiwan in September, however, was cancelled.
CHEd International Affairs Director Frieda Milla defended Licuanan, saying that the chairwoman’s trips were covered by appropriate travel authorities.
“All official travels of the Chairperson are covered by appropriate travel authorities from the Executive Secretary [Salvador Medialdea] and signed by Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra,” Milla said. “The Chairperson is allowed to travel business class for long-haul flights as warranted under OP Memorandum Circular No. 7, series of 2010 and because of her vertigo.”
The Office of the President’s Memorandum Circular 7, series of 2010, states that all government department heads on flights of less than four hours are limited to economy class airfares. Long-haul flights are exempted from this rule.
Licuanan was appointed CHEd chairwoman by President Benigno Aquino 3rd in 2010. She was formerly the president of Miriam College of Quezon City.
She and Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo were barred from attending Cabinet meetings in December 2016.