Byline: DAVID CAGAHASTIAN
President Arroyo has named Rep. Jesli Lapus of Tarlac as the new Department of Education (DepEd) secretary, Palace officials announced yesterday.
As this developed, some education employees demonstrated yesterday in front of the DepEd office in Pasig City to oppose the appointment of Lapus, whom they said is an "elitist" and cannot be effective in his position.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Lapus, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives, will take over as DepEd secretary before the 13th Congress reopens for its 3rd session on July 24, replacing officer-in-charge Undersecretary Fe Hidalgo .
Hidalgo, in a Cabinet meeting days before the resumption of classes in June, had a tiff with Mrs. Arroyo over the shortage of classrooms in the country.
Ermita said Hidalgo's disagreement with Mrs. Arroyo over their differing figures on the classroom shortage in the country had nothing to do with her being beaten to the post by Lapus.
"She will remain undersecretary. Remember she was only the officer-in- charge, just like Undersecretary Ramon Bacani whom she had replaced," Ermita said.
Mrs. Arroyo, in naming Lapus as the new DepEd chief, said: "Jesli (Lapus) is a highly regarded technocrat-politician. His well rounded expertise in executive work will surely be valuable to an enormous organization with nagging areas of concern such as the DepEd," Mrs. Arroyo said.
Ermita dismissed the reaction of the DepEd employees as "a premature burst of emotion that would subside as soon as Lapus proves himself fit for the post."
Lapus, prior to becoming a three- term congressman, was president and chief executive officer of the Land Bank of the Philippines.
Lapus holds a doctorate in public administration, a master's degree in business administration from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM). He completed his post-graduate studies at the Harvard University, INSEAD International Business School, and the University of California in Los Angeles.
Lapus handled development management classes at the AIM and has taught for many years at the Ateneo De Manila University and Miriam College.
His return to the Cabinet earned him the distinction of having served under three chief executives, namely Presidents Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, and Mrs. Arroyo. He first joined government from the private sector in 1987 as undersecretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform.
Asked what education officials and employees can expect under his leadership, Lapus said, "What we have to do is improve management in this organization. We will have to make a conscious effort to empower those occupying managerial or other positions, including teachers."
Colleagues of the Tarlac lawmaker said he deserves the position as they cited his expertise in professional management and dedication to public service will enable him to effectively lead the DepEd.
"Lapus's appointment is a big loss to the House but is without doubt a huge gain …