CHED’s De Vera challenges suspended director vs singling him out in complaint

Published September 20, 2018, 1:28 PM

by iManila Developer

By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Commission on Higher Education (CHED) officer-in-charge Prospero De Vera III challenged suspended executive director Atty. Julito Vitriolo not to single him out and “file charges against all commissioners” for his complaint because all actions and decisions made by the agency are collegial.

CHED Commissioner Prospero de Vera III (RTVM / MANILA BULLETIN)

De Vera, in a press briefing, said that he finds it “disconcerting” that Vitriolo only filed cases against him when the decisions made the Commission are mostly collegial. “Charge everyone, charge all the commissioners [because] all the decisions of the commission is a collective decision,” he said. “No member of the commission can unilaterally or on his own to decide for the commission, we always discuss it then we take a vote,” he added.

Earlier, Vitriolo filed criminal and administrative complaints against De Vera for allegedly “refusing to comply” with the order of the Court of Appeals to reinstate him to his post as executive director of the commission. Vitriolo accused the CHED OIC and spokesperson of “oppression, abuse of authority, neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the interest of service” before the Ombudsman.

De Vera claimed that “he has no authority to reinstate” Vitriolo as appointments are done by the Office of the President (OP). “I cannot appoint anybody [because] it’s not within the powers of the chair of the commission to appoint,” he said. He added that all director positions of CHED are all presidential appointees. “So my suggestion is, he charges all appointees of President Duterte,” he added.

Vitriolo claimed that since in August 2017 – when he reassumed office in CHED as executive director in compliance with the Court of Appeals – his assumption “had been met with defiance of the court order” through the “non-recognition” as well as “obstruction” of his functions. On top of this, he lamented that his benefits and salaries – among others – have been withheld.

Recently, the Sandiganbayan First Division – in a resolution dated August 22, 2018 – dismissed the graft complaint filed against Vitriolo due to “insufficient evidence.” It can be recalled that in January 2017, he was dismissed by Office of the Ombudsman for “gross neglect of duty, grave misconduct, inefficiency and incompetence.”

In the absence of Vitriolo, Karol Mark Yee was appointed by President Duterte as the new executive director in July 2017. However, the Court of Appeals’ 12th Division reversed the Ombudsman decision the following month citing that his dismissal was “too harsh for the minor infractions committed by the official.” The appellate court also ordered for him to be “reinstated immediately” without diminution of pay and benefits, and even ordered the salary withheld against him during his nullified dismissal to “be restored to him.”

Amid the power struggle, Malacanang advised CHED that “the decision or order of the Ombudsman remains executory notwithstanding any other decision or order of the CA which has not yet attained finality.” However, in January this year, Yee has tendered his “irrevocable resignation” citing death threats and harassment as well as “legal and political challenges” that have “constrained” the full exercise of his authority and duty.

Yee’s resignation came barely a month after Dr. Patricia Licuanan has announced her resignation as CHED Chair on January 15 after receiving a call from Malacanang wanting her to resign. Vitriolo led other CHED officials in signing a manifesto urging Licuanan to resign from her position in view of the move of Malacanang to bar her from attending Cabinet meetings in December.

Beyond his control

While he sits as the CHED’s OIC, De Vera stressed that all the actions of the commission are and were guided by the legal opinion of the OP, by the Civil Service Commission, and by the legal position of the Ombudsman.

“Remember CHED is under the OP so whatever the decisions of the executive secretary, we are mandated to implement it,” De Vera said. Meanwhile, he noted that the Atty. Cinderella Jaro has already appointed an OIC executive director. She is also the director of the agency’s legal and legislative service.