A high-ranking official of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) denied that he was exaggerating the problem in the agency after he asked President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint an officer-in-charge to replace Chairperson Patricia Licuanan.
“In our manifesto, we [CHED directors] are simply asking the President to designate or appoint his alter ego in the CHED, somebody who enjoys his trust and confidence so that the commission can be represented in the Cabinet,” CHED executive director Julito Vitriolo said in an interview.
Licuanan earlier said that Vitriolo exaggerated the problem in the agency after the CHED official issued a statement saying that the commission is “in limbo,” and there’s a need for CHED to be headed by someone the chief executive trusted. Earlier this month, the CHED chairperson was asked by the President not to attend Cabinet meetings.
Vitriolo noted that it is very important to have a chairperson who has the trust and confidence of the President and who can attend Cabinet meetings, saying that the CHED is supposed to be co-equal with the other government agencies.
“You must remember that the trifocalization of the education agencies –Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) in 1994 made them co-equal. If the other agencies are part of the Cabinet, more so CHED since it represents the apex of the education system. Human capital formation is vital to national development and this requires the attention of the president and the Cabinet,” he explained.
“Moreover, who will speak for CHED in the Cabinet? Will it be DepEd or Tesda? We are just apprehensive if the link with the President and the Cabinet is cut,” the CHED official added.
Vitriolo noted that the CHED chairperson has always been a part of the Cabinet in the past administrations, citing Republic Act 7722 which gives the rank and emolument as department secretary to the CHED chairperson.
“It is only fitting and proper that CHED be in the Cabinet as in the case of the Aquino administration, the Estrada presidency and even during Arroyo administration. If the chairperson is not part of the Cabinet, how can he or she advise the president properly on higher education matters? Likewise, how are mandates of the president realized or implemented in the agency?” he explained.
Vitriolo also said that no CHED chairperson has gone beyond four years, and Licuanan was the longest serving chairperson.
“The chairperson [Licuanan] is already in her second term. Under the circumstances, she must reflect what is best for the agency and the higher education sector,” he said.
But former Education Secretary and CHED Commissioner Mona Valisno, who had served in the Cabinet in four different administrations, said she resigned from her post whenever there is a new president.
“When there was a change of administration, I tendered my courtesy resignation since CHED is attached to the Office of the President for administrative purposes only, but the next president, then President [Joseph] Estrada asked me to stay,” Valisno said in a separate interview. “I have served five presidents –from President Marcos, President Cory Aquino, President Fidel Ramos, President Estrada, and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.”
“I am not recommending anyone to resign in CHED. I only mention that I was the first commissioner and have served as acting chairman of CHED quite a few times during the time of President Ramos. I have been attending Cabinet meetings, and I have joined President Ramos in state visits to Canada where I have signed for and in behalf of Philippine government a memorandum of agreement for education in the presence of President Ramos, Prime Minister of Canada, and other high government officials of Canada,” Valisno said.
“What is urgently needed now is a strong and effective coordinative system,” she added.
Licuanan, who is serving a fixed term that ends in July 2018, has maintained that she will not resign. She was appointed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd in July 2010. She was reappointed as CHED chairman in 2014.
Under Republic Act 7722 or the Higher Education Act of 1994, Licuanan is entitled to a four-year term as chairman of CHED.