MANILA - Prior to her resignation, there was no animosity between former Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairperson Patricia Licuanan and the commissioners appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte, the agency's temporary chief said Wednesday.
Commissioner Prospero De Vera, who sits as Officer-in-Charge (OIC) after Licuanan resigned earlier this month, said though they had to decide collegially, the commissioners did not have the capacity to intervene in the problem of the non-release of stipends to scholar-teachers.
"We've been working hard since Day 1. There's no personal animosity or conflict between the Duterte commissioners and the Chair because we work as a collegial body," he told ANC's Headstart.
"Whatever differences the Chair might have with the President, that is between her and the president. I’m not privy to it, I don’t know what it was all about. Trabaho lang tayo all this past year and a half," he said.
Licuanan stepped down on January 15 after receiving a call from Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea amid allegations that she traveled excessively and without the permission of the President.
De Vera said, while he does not know what transpired in that phone call, he was aware that Duterte instructed Medialdea and Presidential Special Assistant Christopher "Bong" Go to look into Licuanan's foreign travels.
He also pointed out that were some things "wrong in the design" of the K-12 program implemented by the commission.
CHED took in about 9,500 tertiary-level teachers to be its scholars for further studies as universities trimmed their faculty due to a decrease in enrollees after a 12-year basic education program was rolled out.
De Vera, Duterte's first appointee to the commission, said the combination of the high volume of teacher-scholars and "an organizational structure that is not very stable" is "courting disaster."
He said the K-12 program, designed before he took office, created a transition team composed of contractual employees who are accountable to the chairman's office.
"They tried hard, but they didn’t know the rules of government when they were designing the program. There were requirements that the Commission on Audit said was not correct," he said.
"There’s a learning curve if you get young people on contractual basis. There’s no accountability because if they make mistakes, they can just resign and get out of their contract," he said.
This, plus how the program was intended for each scholar individually, resulted to about 1,000 scholars not being able to receive their stipend from CHED since 2016, said De Vera.
Before resigning, Licuanan admitted that 4,096 teachers who received scholarships in 2016 had "problems" in their allowances because of missing documents, but added that only 933 had yet to receive their stipend.
Since he "took over the responsibility in addressing problem," De Vera said he clustered the scholars per school to be able to streamline the process of fulfilling the missing documents, and about 600 scholars received their stipend.
"I’m sure and I’m confident that maybe in 1 to 2 weeks’ time, all the problematic scholars would be addressed," he said.
"It is inhuman to not give allowances to scholars-teachers...This should have been addressed more urgently because every single day that passes, there are scholars that stopped studying because they need their allowances. They’re not getting salaries from their universities; they’re relying on the stipends that they have," he added.