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CHED chair Licuanan resigns after receiving call from Palace

Commission on Higher Education chairperson Patricia Licuanan on Monday announced her resignation saying that she received a phone call from Malacañang asking her to step down.

Licuanan made the announcement during the flag ceremony at CHED where she revealed that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea called her over the weekend asking her to resign, GMA News' Maki Pulido reported.

"Over the weekend I received a call for Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea asking me to resign as chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education. While my term by law ends in July 2018, I have decided it is time to go," she said.



"It has become obvious that there are persons determined to get me out of CHED by hurling false and baseless accusations against me in what appears to be a fishing expedition and well-orchestrated move in media," she added.



Although she vehemently denied the accusations against her, Licuanan said "it is time to resign" as her "continued presence in CHED is inimical to the interest of the institution."

She added that "it will only serve as lightning rod to attract more controversy that is distracting the agency from vigorously pursuing urgent reforms that will redound to the benefit of future generations of Filipinos."

Foreign trips

Licuanan was earlier accused by Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta party-list Representative Jericho Nograles of going on several trips abroad.

Nograles said Licuanan supposedly issued herself travel authorities. However, he admitted that he committed a mistake when he claimed that Licuanan's trips abroad were not authorized by the Office of the President.

Licuanan, for her part, denied the allegations and defended her foreign travels, saying that the trips opened more opportunities to enhance the quality of higher education in the country.

"I was first accused of excessive travel. When records revealed I travelled eight times officially in 2017 (with only five of these trips paid for by government), five times in 2016, six times in 2015, two times in 2014, and only three times in 2013, the accusation turned to travel without authority from the Office of the President," she said.

"My office provided copies of travel papers signed by the Senior Deputy Executive Secretary authorizing me to meet specific commitments in line with CHED's internationalization mandate and allowing me to travel business class to avoid the recurrence of vertigo," she added.

Licuanan also mentioned that her ability to attend to her work as CHED chairperson was "maliciously peddled" on social media.

Iligan City Representative Frederick Siao earlier suggested that Licuanan should make an "honorable exit" if health issues impede her duties in CHED.

"My ability to attend to CHED work for health reasons was maliciously peddled in social media even if I have worked consistently in CHED from 6:45 a.m. to after 6 p.m. on most days and took a sick leave only for half a day in 7.5 years in office," she said.

She also questioned how Nograles was able to get access to her travel documents as these were internal documents.

"What I cannot understand was how Rep. Jericho Nograles got hold of my internal travel documents for the past five years. Only a few offices in CHED had access to these. These are internal documents to support the administrative release of funds and while I sign the internal document for my own travels, my signing is always based on an official travel authority from Malacañan," Licuanan said.

"The question is, who put these together and who offered it to the congressman?" she added.

Licuanan, who was appointed to head the commission in 2010 and again in 2014, was supposed to end her second four-year term as chairperson on July 20.

Former CHED executive director Julito Vitriolo, meanwhile, said in a statement that Licuanan should have resigned earlier to "avoid an unpleasant exit in her career."

Vitriolo said that they have been "clamoring" for her resignation since December 2016 when Licuanan was barred from Cabinet meetings as the Commission "cannot be effective without the trust and confidence of the President in its leadership."

"We the concerned officials and staff of CHED thank the President for his firm, uncompromising and impartial stand on erring officials of government. As he has declared time and again — No one is above the law," he said. 

Palace: Duterte poised to accept

President Rodrigo Duterte is poised to accept the resignation of Licuanan.

"The President has received the resignation of CHED chairperson Licuanan and it will be accepted by the President," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a briefing in Malacañang on Monday. —Marlly Rome Bondoc and Trisha Macas/KG, GMA News