MANILA - Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chair Patricia Licuanan said executive director Julito Vitriolo exaggerated the problem in the agency after she was asked to stop attending Cabinet meetings.
Licuanan noted Vitriolo was invited to a press conference at Malacañang where matters pertaining to the agency were discussed, but when the order from President Rodrigo for Licuanan to desist from attending Cabinet meetings was brought up, "he made statements that CHED is in limbo, that there was a need to clarify and then possibly a need for CHED to be headed by someone the President trusted."
"I said he exaggerated the problem. He knows—I’m sure but he did not bring that up at all—he knows the CHED law. So he knows I have a term and I am secured, the leadership of CHED is secured," she said in an interview with ANC's Headstart on Thursday.
Seventeen directors, led by Vitriolo, signed a letter addressed to Duterte asking him to appoint an officer-in-charge to replace Licuanan.
Licuanan revealed, she had formally written Vitriolo, seeking an explanation for his actions.
"I have asked him to explain his actions and we’ve gotten a response from his lawyer, so I have to think of our next steps," she said.
"But I do feel it has to be handled and things have to normalize—which actually they are. Things are normal, but as I said, it has been blown out of proportion," she added.
She also asserted, she does not believe Vitriolo is behind the decision to "disinvite" her from Cabinet meetings. "I think that was a decision of the president, but certainly, that was communicated to me by the Cabinet Secretary," she said.
She added, the alleged "power play" in the agency are merely "media’s words and media’s pakulo," and that she believes Vitriolo used Duterte's orders and made it "bigger than it actually was."
Licuanan revealed that at the moment, she and Vitriolo are in speaking terms "at meetings," and she had only asked for his explanation via the formal letter, but "not in a friendly way, face-to-face."
She also insisted that she has no intention of seeking a meeting with the President, who she believes has more important things to do. Licuanan said she has also been assured of support after a meeting in June and a statement from Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco that there was no intention to remove her.
"Let President Duterte handle peace and all these other problems of the country," she said.