VP Sara resigns as DepEd chief

By Darryl John Esguerra

June 19, 2024, 3:13 pm Updated on June 19, 2024, 6:53 pm

<p>Vice President Sara Duterte <em>(Inday Sara Duterte Facebook)</em></p>

Vice President Sara Duterte (Inday Sara Duterte Facebook)

MANILA – Vice President Sara Duterte stepped down as education secretary and vice chairperson of the government’s anti-communist task force, Malacañang announced on Wednesday.

According to Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Cheloy Garafil, Duterte went to Malacañang at 2:21 p.m. Wednesday to tender her resignation as Member of the Cabinet, Secretary of the Department of Education and Vice Chairperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Garafil added that the Vice President did not provide a reason for her resignation

“She [Duterte] declined to give a reason why. She will continue to serve as Vice President. We thank her for her service,” Garafil said, noting that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. accepted Duterte’s resignation from the Cabinet.

Marcos appointed Duterte as education secretary upon their assumption to office on June 30, 2022.

Marcos and Duterte ran and won convincingly under the UniTeam Coalition in the 2022 election.

In a speech at the DepEd Main Office in Pasig City, Duterte assured an orderly transition as she confirmed her resignation.

Ano mang kwento, kahit gaano kaganda ay sadyang nagtatapos rin (Whatever story, no matter how good, still comes to an end). Earlier today, June 19, 2024, I sought an audience with the President and tendered my resignation as the Secretary of Education effective July 19, 2024,” she said.

“I have given my 30-day notice to ensure the proper and orderly transition for the benefit of the next secretary,” she added.

Duterte expressed her gratitude for the support of all teachers, non-teaching personnel, local government units, and private stakeholders as she pushed for reforms in the education sector.

She also vowed to continue advocating for the rights and welfare of all teachers and learners in the country.

Under Duterte’s leadership, the DepEd has launched its MATATAG Agenda to address challenges in the quality of the education sector.

The MATATAG Agenda stands for MAke the curriculum relevant to produce competent and job-ready, active, and responsible citizens; TAke steps to accelerate delivery of basic education facilities and services; TAke good care of learners by promoting learner well-being, inclusive education, and a positive learning environment; and Give support to teachers to teach better.

Education as tool vs. insurgency

Duterte's stint at the DepEd was marked by ongoing efforts to improve the country's educational system, considered one of the important tools in combating local communist insurgency, NTF-ELCAC executive director Undersecretary Ernesto Torres Jr. said.

"She spearheaded various programs aimed at improving the quality of education and making it more accessible, thereby addressing one of the key factors contributing to local conflicts," Torres said. "Her leadership has also emphasized the importance of education as a vital component in combating insurgency."

Torres thanked Duterte for her "invaluable contributions and leadership," saying dedication to the task force has resulted in numerous successful initiatives and operations that have strengthened the resolve and capacity of communities to stand against insurgency.

"We wish her success in her future endeavors and are confident that she will continue to serve the Filipino people with the same passion and dedication," Torres said.

Senators weigh in

Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, said Duterte’s resignation as DepEd secretary “is a big loss” as the “political will” of the vice president is important in putting the directions of the education sector in “one direction.”

"Ang isang pangunahing dahilan kung bakit itinalaga [ni President Marcos] si Vice President Sara dahil binibigyan ng priority yung (One of the main reasons why [President Marcos] appointed Vice President Sara is because he prioritizes the) education sector," Gatchalian said during the Kapihan sa Senado.

He said he is hoping that existing programs and policies being implemented by the DepEd will continue despite her resignation.

For Senate Majority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III, President Marcos should appoint a new DepEd chief who has “experience and good track record” in the education sector.

"This person must be someone who has worked with or in the department for decades. Someone familiar with how the department works as well as with the problems of the education sector and educational system. Someone who has dedicated his or her life to education and can show the track record for it," Pimentel said in a Viber message to reporters.

Meanwhile, Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa trusts that Duterte's decision was "well thought of."

"I believe it was a choice that took into consideration the best interest of our people, as has always been characteristic of her. I fully trust that she will continue to fulfill her mandate as the Vice President of the Philippines and help uplift the lives of every Filipino. After all, beyond her titles, it is her integrity that defines her leadership, and it is this integrity that she shall always uphold," dela Rosa said in another Viber message.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman expressed hope that the issues hounding Philippine education will be resolved as a result of Duterte's resignation.

Lagman also hoped that Duterte's replacement would come from the ranks of "experienced and dedicated educators who can efficiently steer and professionally manage" the country's educational system.

He noted that Duterte’s departure from a prime position in the President’s Cabinet signifies the end of the "increasingly tenuous partisan relations" between the Marcos and Duterte political power blocs.

ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro expressed optimism that President Marcos would appoint a DepEd secretary with experience in the field who would truly serve the education sector.

GABRIELA Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas said Duterte's resignation as DepEd secretary highlights the urgent need to appoint a genuine public servant who will prioritize uplifting the long-neglected education sector.

"From the very start, the Vice President had no real intention of addressing the crisis in our education system," Brosas said.

Brosas described Duterte's exit as a political move in preparation for the 2025 elections to "set the stage for a potential power struggle" between the Duterte and Marcos factions.

Manila Rep. Joel Chua said the breakdown of Duterte's alliance with President Marcos under the UniTeam exposed the Vice President's "false façade of unity" that was merely maintained for "election purposes". (with reports from Stephanie Sevillano, Priam Nepomuceno, and Wilnard Bacelonia/Filane Mikee Cervantes/PNA)