DAVAO CITY—President-elect Rodrigo Duterte may ask Patricia Licuanan to give up her chairmanship of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), the president of Ateneo de Davao University has said.
Duterte has tapped his former professor, Jose David Lapuz, to head the commission even though its current chair, Licuanan, has a fixed term until 2018.
Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J., said Duterte may ask Licuanan to quit on the basis of a 2014 Commission on Audit (COA) report about CHEd’s failure to spend P1.2 billion allocation for poor students.
The COA reported that this failure stemmed from CHEd’s “internal control weaknesses” in processing and releasing allowances under its student financial assistance programs, he said.
“President Duterte will respect the law. But the possibility remains that the president may ask her to resign based, for example, on the COA report on CHEd under Licuanan (Cf. COA Website) or the negative evaluations of the performance of CHEd under Licuanan by the Office of Executive Secretary (Paquito) Ochoa. This will allow President Duterte to place his political choice in CHED,” Tabora said in an e-mail to the Inquirer.net.
In 2014, CHEd was allotted P5.2 billion to help 391,817 poor college students—nearly 10 times more than its usual number of beneficiaries—through scholarships, grants-in-aid and study-now, pay-later loans. But COA said P1.23 billion of the amount went unspent because the CHEd was not able to “absorb” its allocation.
Licuanan, however, had said that as of Dec. 15, 2015, the P1.2-billion budget “had been fully obligated with an assurance that the beneficiaries will be paid.”
Licuanan to give way?
President Aquino appointed Licuanan in 2010 for a fixed four-year term, and reappointed her in 2014 to a second four-year term, which expires in 2018.
Tabora explored the possibility of Duterte asking Licuanan to give way to Lapuz before her term expires, or the former submitting a courtesy resignation.
“I understood that designation to be premised on either Patricia Licuanan submitting a courtesy resignation to the new President-elect, just as (former) CHEd Chair Manny Angeles had submitted when Benigno Aquino became president, giving way for the chairmanship of Licuanan, or on President Duterte asking Chair Licuanan to give way to his choice,” Tabora said.
Angeles had two years of his term left when he resigned out of deference to the new president, he said.
Asked about her possible replacement, Licuanan on Tuesday said: “Let it come from the President-elect himself.”
Standing by his blog account of the meeting at the Malacañang of the South here on June 8, Tabora said “personal exchanges” between Duterte and his longtime political science professor confirmed Lapuz’s designation.
No announcement yet
“My blog shared with my readers the clear designation by President-elect Duterte of Prof. Jose David Lapuz as CHEd chair before a roomful of witnesses on June 8 at 2:30 a.m. That designation was confirmed in personal exchanges that early morning between Prof. Lapuz and President-elect Duterte,” Tabora wrote in an e-mail.
It was Tabora who confirmed Lapuz’s designation as CHEd chair. Incoming presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo has so far not made any official announcement on this.
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