Many directors at the Commission on Higher Education were forced to sign a document asking the agency's chairperson Patricia Licuanan to step down from her post, the Cabinet official revealed Friday.
Seventeen directors, led by CHED executive director Julito Vitriolo, had earlier signed a letter addressed to President Rodrigo Duterte asking him to appoint an officer-in-charge in place of Licuanan.
Licuanan admitted it looked "terrible" that so many directors signed such a manifesto but noted they were "a mixed bag of people."
"Essentially many of them have come to me saying they signed under duress and some said they simply thought they were signing an appeal for clarification," she said in an interview on ANC.
The development came after Duterte asked the CHED chair to desist from coming to Cabinet meetings. Licuanan has a fixed term until 2018.
But Licuanan said she did not take this as a sign that Duterte lost confidence in her, noting that the CHED chairmanship is a Cabinet-level position but the one holding it is not necessarily included in the President's meetings.
"I can be disinvited just as easily," she said.
She also said that the problems in CHED are only "being created by the executive director" who believes she had lost the trust and confidence of the President, in the process endangering the efficiency of the agency.
"This is not the first this happened in CHED. Atty. Vitriolo has been around for a very long time and those who know him are aware of his track record in kind of making trouble for the leadership of CHED," she said.
On Monday, Vitriolo and CHED commissioner Prospero De Vera III even both walked out of the agency's national directorate meeting after questioning Licuanan's legitimacy to preside.
Licuanan said many of them know that De Vera is being groomed to replace her after her term ends in 2018 but she didn't know he was in such a hurry to take her post.
"I think he assumes, as many of us do, that he will be the next chair of CHED but I thought he would wait," she said.
But she said that aside from someone wanting her post, she said there are also reforms in CHED that are probably "making some groups uncomfortable."
"You know this has been going on for six years, I thought things were okay (now)," she said.