CHED chief to critics: Let me finish my term

By Janvic Mateo

MANILA, Philippines — Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chair Patricia Licuanan yesterday appealed to her critics to let her finish her term amid allegations of excessive travels last year that supposedly resulted in problems within the agency.

Licuanan vehemently denied the allegations, rejecting calls from some sectors for her to resign.

“My term is over on July 20, 2018. I’m doing my job, just let me finish it. It’s just six months. Why can’t people wait?” Licuanan said during an interview with ANC.

“I hope I will not be forced to resign; that things will be so unbearable I will be forced to resign,” she added.

Asked who is after her job, she responded: “I don’t know. Many. It looks like there are a lot.”

Licuanan, an appointee of former president Benigno Aquino III who is serving her second and final term as CHED chief, is facing new criticisms over delays in release of scholarship allowances supposedly due to her foreign travels.

She admitted there were delays in the release of allowances of some scholars, but noted that this was not a result of her travels, which she said were necessary and part of her mandate as head of the agency.

“Travel is part of the job. But having said that, did I travel excessively?” she said, noting that her eight trips last year was her record-high since she was appointed to the commission in 2010.

“The year before I traveled five times. Before that, six. In 2014, two; in 2013, three. That’s hardly excessive and all of these things had to do with very specific commitments,” she said.

Licuanan said CHED has been pushing for internationalization as a way to improve the quality of higher education in the Philippines.

“It is because of these travels that we were able to have joint programs with institutions abroad. We’re able to send students from the Philippines to receiving countries and receive also from foreign countries,” she said.

It was Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles who made the accusations against Licuanan, even saying she failed to secure travel authority from Malacañang. But he later retracted after CHED released official documents to belie his claims.

Scholarship delays

During the interview, the CHED chief conceded they had problems in the scholarships and allowances of thousands of recipients of the CHED’s K-12 transition program, but stressed “it has nothing to do with me being out.”

“But admittedly this is a serious problem which we deeply regret and we are facing,” Licuanan said.

“It looks like we bit off a lot more than we could chew. It was new, it was massive. There were a lot of kinks that have to be ironed out,” she added.

Licuanan explained the delays were due to the magnitude of documents they had to process, adding they also instituted reforms to fast-track the processing of allowances.

“CHED has chokepoints, but other government agencies have these as well,” she said.

An earlier statement from her office said CHED would hire additional manpower to help in handling the documents, as well as introduce an effective process to ensure that discrepancies are detected early on.

“The commission will, with the highest degree of integrity, make the improvement of these systems its top priority, assuring the public that despite the challenges, it remains steadfast in finding ways to fulfill its mandate of supporting institutions, faculty and staff during the transition period,” the commission said.

“Recognizing the exigency of providing relief during this time of the year, the commission is implementing steps to accommodate scholars whose documents are still pending full compliance. For scholars with signed contracts and submitted enrolment forms and/or grades of the completed semester, allowances will be partially released,” it added.

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