MANILA - (3rd UPDATE) Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Patricia Licuanan resigned on Monday, saying it was time to go after receiving a call from Malacanang.
Licuanan said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea phoned her over the weekend asking her to step down ahead of the expiration of her term in July 2018.
"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 media," she said.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Licuanan's resignation letter has been received and will likely be accepted by Malacañang.
He said the Palace has yet to choose a replacement for Licuanan, but the most senior of CHED commissioners will take over in an acting capacity.
Asked if Licuanan was the chairperson President Rodrigo Duterte warned he will fire because of corruption, Roque only said: "This was a resignation, an act of Chairperson Licuanan herself. Her resignation has rendered all controversies being moot and I don’t feel compelled to issue any statement in that regard."
Roque said Duterte knows of the accusations of excessive foreign travels against Licuanan, but "it doesn’t matter what he says or thinks because Chairman Licuanan has resigned."
Licuanan rejected allegations of excessive travel. She said she had 8 official travels last year, 5 of which were paid by government. She said she had 5 official travels in 2016, 6 in 2015, 2 in 2014 and 3 in 2013.
Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Partylist Rep. Jericho Nograles last week questioned whether Licuanan usurped the powers of the President by approving her own travels.
Licuanan said that while she signed her own travel documents, these were "always based on an official travel authority from Malacañang."
She added that she traveled in business class "to avoid the recurrence of vertigo."
The head of the Maritime Industry Authority, administrator Marcial Amaro III, was fired earlier this month over alleged excessive travels.
Similar allegations led to the removal from office of ex-Dangerous Drugs Board chairman Dionisio Santiago and Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor chairman Terry Ridon.
Licuanan was appointed by President Benigno Aquino III as CHED chairperson. Back in December 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte banned her from attending all Cabinet meetings.
Duterte had floated the idea of replacing Licuanan with David Lapuz, his former professor, according to Ateneo de Davao President Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J.