Tuesday, February 20, 2018
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At Large

Tattie bites the dust

Another woman (official) bites the dust.

First there was Sen. Leila de Lima who, on the say-so of incarcerated drug lords (who certainly had an axe to grind against her as former justice secretary), was ordered arrested and detained and is still under detention to this day. Then there followed in steady succession threats and removal attempts against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and Vice President Leni Robredo, with the abolition of the Office of the Vice President being contemplated as part of the planned revision of the Constitution.

Yesterday, Patricia “Tattie” Licuanan, chair of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), announced her resignation, saying “it is time to go after receiving a call from Malacañang.”

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Actually, Licuanan had been an early target of the Duterte administration. The President called on her publicly to resign a few months after he took office, and when she refused to do so on grounds that her term was to end only in July 2018, she was barred from attending any future Cabinet meetings (as what happened with Vice President Robredo, too).

One would think that since Malacañang kept silent after finding little ground to force Licuanan’s hand, that she would be able to serve out her term. But then, as Licuanan recounted in a statement, over the weekend Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea phoned her and told her to step down from her post in CHEd.

“I have decided it is time to go. It has become obvious 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 a well-orchestrated move in the media,” she said.

Asked for comment, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the CHEd chair’s resignation had been received and would “likely be accepted” by the President.

“Well-orchestrated” would certainly be the right way to describe the attacks on Licuanan in the past week or so.

First was the surfacing of accusations that Licuanan had traveled “excessively” in recent months, for which other Duterte officials had been fired or forced to resign. Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles was then quoted in reports accusing Licuanan of “usurping the powers of the President” by approving her own travels, which need clearance from Malacañang. But Licuanan refuted the accusation by saying that while she did sign some travel documents, these were “always based on an official travel authority from Malacañang.”
Licuanan questioned how Nograles got his hands on her travel documents, which she described as being “internal” in nature, raising questions about the timing of the release, in the thick of controversies related to other officials who came under fire for their frequent travels. There were also reports that Licuanan was about to be accused on the House floor of alleged discrepancies in the distribution of scholarship funds for government scholars—a charge she denies.

Licuanan has served as CHEd chair since 2014 when she was appointed to the post by President Benigno Aquino III. Before this, she was president of Miriam College and had served as an international civil servant, chairing several committees in preparation for conferences sponsored by the United Nations.

She thus enjoys respect and recognition not just from local academics, who have cited her remarkable record of “cleaning up” the CHEd, but also from the international community.

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Tattie, as friends call her, hails from the Benitez clan of noted educators, and has established a name for herself as a psychologist, most notably for her groundbreaking studies on the psychological effects on Filipino families of the policy of labor export.

I have my doubts that this will be the last we will see of Tattie. As she said in her letter of resignation: “As a private citizen, I intend to continue as a dedicated advocate for reform in Philippine higher education.” Let’s wait and see how this “dedicated advocate” will perform, and what her harassment at the hands of the Duterte administration has taught her.

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TAGS: At Large, CHEd, Patricia Licuanan, Rina Jimenez-David, Rodrigo Duterte, Salvador Medialdea
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