New DA chief did not study in UST—registrar

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NEWLY appointed agriculture secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. is not a UST computer science alumnus and did not pursue any undergraduate studies at the University, his camp and the Office of the Registrar have clarified.

Multiple news outlets, including the Varsitarian, reported that Laurel, who replaced President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Nov. 3 as secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), finished his bachelor’s degree in computer science in UST.

The Varsitarian obtained the now-disproved information from an official document submitted in 2016 to the Securities and Exchange Commission by Pure Energy Holdings Corp., where Laurel served as a director and shareholder.

The document stated that the fishing tycoon “holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Santo Tomas.”

Similarly, a short biography of Tuna Think Tank members, facilitators and organizers published by the World Wildlife Fund indicated that “Francisco Laurel holds a degree in Computer Science from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.”

Laurel, who was president of the seafood production company Frabelle Fishing Corp. before being agriculture secretary, was a participant in Tuna Think Tank.

Before assuming the position of DA chief, Laurel was mentioned as a UST computer science graduate in various articles, including one from the University of the Philippines Visayas.

The UST registrar’s office, however, found no record of Laurel’s enrollment in the University.

“Based on our records in the Office of the Registrar, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. is not a UST Computer Science alumnus,” Assistant Registrar Kashmer Cruz told the Varsitarian

“The Office of the Registrar and the accounting department did not find any record of enrollment in the University of the name Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr.,” added registrar’s office supervisor Reynaldo Isidro.

Laurel’s chief of staff, Alvin Balagbag, confirmed to the Varsitarian that the new agriculture secretary did not attend nor graduate from UST. 

Marcos Jr., who concurrently served as agriculture secretary before picking his childhood friend to replace him, said Laurel was someone “who understands very well the problems that agriculture is facing.” 

Laurel, 56, donated P30 million to Marcos’s Partido Federal ng Pilipinas during the 2022 national elections, according to the political party’s schedule of contributions filed before the Commission on Elections last year.

The Varsitarian has reached out to Laurel’s camp to inquire about his educational background but has yet to receive a response as of writing.


Editor’s note: The Varsitarian has unpublished its article on the appointment of the new Department of Agriculture secretary, which incorrectly stated that Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. was a Thomasian and a graduate in computer science.

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