COMMISSION on Higher Education (CHEd) Chairperson Patricia Licuanan maintained on Wednesday that Karol Mark Yee remains the incumbent and legitimate CHEd executive director.
“We want to clarify that the executive director of CHEd is Mr. Karol Mark Yee, not Atty. [Julito] Vitriolo. At the moment, we do have an executive director, he has been there since he was appointed by our President [Rodrigo Duterte],” Licuanan told reporters in a news briefing at the CHEd central office in Quezon City.
The Court of Appeals (CA) recently reversed the Office of the Ombudsman’s dismissal of Vitriolo and ordered his immediate reinstatement. The anti-graft court dismissed Vitriolo from service for grave misconduct for allowing the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila to issue transcripts of records and diplomas based on a suspended education program.
“Changing [or reversing]of the Ombudsman’s decision of [Vitriolo’s] dismissal is not immediately executory, and that’s the opinion of our legal office from the start,” Licuanan said.
“The whole point here is the fact that the Court of Appeals reinstated him, he insists that he should be reinstated immediately. We insist, as I said from day one, upon the advice by our CHEd legal office, that it is not immediately executory. We have to wait for the period of appeals, and in fact, the complainant filed a Motion for Reconsideration with the Court of Appeals. That is the process that is ongoing,” she explained.
Licuanan noted that any memorandum issued and circulated, documents transmitted, and communication signed by Vitriolo have no legal effect and will be considered null and void.
“He (Vitriolo) has the right to express himself, but he cannot speak as CHEd executive director,” Licuanan said.
“We have a sitting executive director, and for the most part things are operating normally . . . things that are signed by Atty. Vitriolo are not to be honored. They are not valid and legal,” the CHEd chief added.
But Vitriolo said Licuanan should respect and abide by the decision of the Court of Appeals.
“These are just opinions. The Court of Appeals says that the petitioner [referring to me]is accordingly ordered reinstated immediately to my former position as executive director of the Commission on Higher Education,” Vitriolo said in an interview.
“They should respect that. The same with when I was dismissed about six or seven months ago even with my appeal I was out of my office because that was immediately executory, although not yet final. I was out of the office for almost seven months, but when I won in the Court of Appeals, the result based on their order is I was reinstated immediately to my former position, so I complied with that, I assumed office on August 29 after serving the copies of the decision,” he added.
Vitriolo noted that even the Office of the President has affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals.
“The Office of the President, including CHEd, said that they will abide and respect the decision. That is clear. Unfortunately, our chairperson can’t seem to accept the reality that I am here for whatever reasons personal or otherwise, and then putting all kinds of obstacles, including citing supposedly opinions without basis,” he said.
In December 2016, Vitriolo and other CHEd officials signed a manifesto urging Licuanan to resign from her position in view of the move of Malacañang to bar her from attending Cabinet meetings.
The Ombudsman said Vitriolo “acted with gross negligence for failing to heed the demand to investigate and stop the diploma mill, and for allowing the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) to issue transcripts of records and diplomas based on a suspended education program.”
The Ombudsman said that in 1996, the PLM and the National College of Physical Education (NCPE) entered into a memorandum of agreement for NCPE to use the facilities of PLM without compensation for a program to issue diplomas to graduates.
But former PLM President Adel Tamano in 2008 suspended the memorandum of agreement after a Commission on Audit report said that the agreement was prejudicial to the interests of the university.
But in 2010, Vitriolo maintained that despite the suspension of the program, the transcript of records could still be issued by the PLM under the memorandum of agreement “based on vested rights.”
The Ombudsman also said Vitriolo failed to lead an investigation on the implementation of the program and also failed to comply with requests for information on a program of education.
The Ombudsman said Vitriolo failed to act on requests to investigate PLM over the diploma mill operation that duped 703 students.
Vitriolo was found liable for an ethical breach for his failure to reply to letter-requests for information on the memorandum of agreement and for investigation on the alleged diploma mill within the 15-day period prescribed under Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.