Sara Duterte resigns as DepEd secretary

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:03 p.m.) — Vice President Sara Duterte on Wednesday tendered her resignation as Department of Education secretary, dislodging herself from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s Cabinet after a year of flaring political tensions between both of their families.

Duterte said in a press conference that she personally submitted her resignation to the president in Malacañang, which will take effect 30 days from now or on July 19. 

The vice president refused to answer why she stepped down from the position, leaving immediately after the press conference at the DepEd Central Office without taking questions.

Besides vacating DepEd, Duterte has also resigned as co-vice chairperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) announced hours before. 

It is unclear whether Duterte gave DepEd officials a heads-up before her resignation, which comes nearly a month before classes are scheduled to resume in public schools.

A statement from the Office of the Vice President and DepEd said that they would "not be taking interviews on the matter" during the 30-day transition period. 

"We understand that most are curious as to the reason behind such decision, but what is of greater and pressing importance is that a proper transition be made for the next Secretary," the statement sent to reporters on Viber read.

During the press conference, the vice president said she resigned as the head of the education department not out of "weakness" but due to "compassion for teachers and students." 

The PCO also said in its announcement that Duterte "declined to give a reason" for her resignation. It added, however, that Duterte "will continue to serve as Vice President."

Solidifying allegiances 

Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay, 1st District), an independent opposition member at the House of Representatives, said that Duterte's exit from Marcos' Cabinet "ends with finality the increasingly tenuous partisan relations between the Duterte and Marcos political power blocs. This terminates absolutely the Uniteam."

Duterte's political family has been publicly at odds with Marcos and his allies after Congress rejected her request for confidential and intelligence funds in 2023, on top of apparent disagreements over the government's approach to China's interference in the West Philippine Sea. 

At one point, the camps of former president Rodrigo Duterte and Marcos publicly traded barbs and accusations during public rallies, where the former basely accused the latter of abusing illegal substances.

Unlike her father and her siblings, the vice president herself has not openly criticized the president, silently keeping herself out of the battle lines drawn by others. She has, however, given more relaxed answers to questions on the rift between her and House Speaker Martin Romualdez, the president's cousin, questioning him for "attacking administration allies."

Teachers' group the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said that Duterte's resignation "only indicates the worsening rift between the Marcos and Duterte camps," saying that their power struggle "serves none of the real interests of the people."

With Duterte stepping down as DepEd secretary, "she is one thorn less in the side of the teachers and the education sector," ACT said. 

Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Women's Party) said that Duterte's resignation is a political move meant to prepare her camp for the 2025 midterm elections "to set the stage for a potential power struggle between the Duterte and Marcos factions."

"While there may be deepening cracks in the perceived 'unity' between President Marcos Jr. and Vice President Duterte, we must remain vigilant. They remain united in pushing anti-people policies and governance that favor only their dynastic interests at the expense of the Filipino people," Brosas said.

Two months before Duterte's resignation on Wednesday, Marcos dismissed lawmakers' calls for Duterte to be replaced as education secretary, saying instead that he would only replace his Cabinet secretaries if they "don't do their jobs properly." 

This was after First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos admitted that she and the vice president were no longer on good terms due to her attendance at the public rallies held by Duterte's supporters against the president.

A new survey released by OCTA Research Group in May found that Duterte's satisfaction and trust ratings have dipped lower than Marcos' — the first time since both won in a landslide victory in the 2022 elections.

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