DOCTOR Mona Valisno will formally take over the helm of the Department of Education (DepEd), the largest government agency, from Secretary Jesli Lapus on Monday afternoon.

DepEd Information Officer Kenneth Tirado said Lapus will formally turn over his post to Valisno at 3 p.m. Monday and will move to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as part of the latest re-shuffle in the cabinet.

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Lapus served as education secretary for close to four years taking over from acting secretary Fe Hidalgo after Florencio Abad joined other Cabinet officials who resigned from the government in 2005 at the height of the “Hello Garci" scandal.

Valisno, on the other hand, is the head of the Presidential Task Force on Education from 2008 to 2009 that was tasked to come up with programs to reform the country's basic and higher education systems and make it at par with the rest of the world.

She is a former chair of the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) and also worked for DepEd’s forerunner, the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (Decs) and was the founding director of the National Education Testing and Research Center (NETRC).

These experiences, Valisno said would enable her to address all the issues and concerns in the education department.

“I am familiar with all the issues in the education sector as I have been working with them all my life," Valisno said.

Valisno’s appointment was made after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced Lapus’ designation as the new trade secretary replacing Peter Favila who was moved to the Monetary Board, the highest policy making body of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Her designation is part of the latest Cabinet reshuffle two months before going into the May 10 elections.

Last week, several new Cabinet members were named following a Supreme Court (SC) ruling that appointed government officials running in the upcoming elections are deemed resigned.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the President is banned from appointing officials — except for temporary appointments when vacancies "will prejudice public service or endanger public safety" — two months before the elections.

But even this early, several teachers groups have already expressed their concern that the re-shuffle would affect the implementation of reforms set by Lapus.

Fidel Fababier, secretary general of the Action and Solidarity for the Empowerment of Teachers (Assert) said it is doubtful if Valisno can really make a difference in DepEd considering that she has only four months left before a new administration takes place after the May 10 elections.

Fababier said they are apprehensive that their concerns such as lesser working hours and payment of unpaid benefits will be delayed with the change in leadership.

For his part, Benjo Basas, president of the 30,000-strong Teachers Dignity Coalition (TDC) echoed Fabafier’s position and said they would have to wait and see if Valisno can resolve all the issues confronting the education sector in such as short time despite her experience. (AH/Sunnex)