A MEMBER of the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) on Sunday prodded Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd to investigate President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that the panel rejected the appointment of Regina Lopez as Environment Secretary because of “lobby money.”
Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato of Occidental Mindoro said Pimentel, the chairman of the CA, should probe the bribery allegations against members of the appointments body and mete out appropriate actions, if necessary.
“I believe inaction will be a disservice to our people and to our country,” Sato said in a statement.
“(The) CA is a constitutional body whose mandate is to serve as an effective check to the appointments of the President. It is a collegial body composed of representatives from the Senate and the House of Representatives who are duty bound to determine the fitness and qualification of cabinet appointees free from undue influence,” she said.
“Any allegation that undermines the integrity and independence of the CA must be taken seriously,” the lawmaker added.
President Duterte expressed his frustration over Lopez’s rejection by the CA on Thursday.
“Sayang si Gina (It’s a pity about Gina). I really like her passion…But you know how it is. This is democracy, and lobby money talks,” he said in a speech at a gathering of doctors in Davao City.
On Friday, Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalao Party-list said that he will file a resolution asking the House to investigate Duterte’s claim that lobby money from miners was used against Lopez.
However, Rep. Rodito Albano, a member of the CA, threatened to file an ethics complaint against Alejano if he fails to present proof against members of the CA.
Albano said that the President was joking when he issued the “lobby money” statement.
“I will let him to file [his resolution]. If he fails to prove such claim, then we’ll file an ethics complaint against him because he is imputing motives on our actions,” Albano said in a radio interview.
“Alejano’s resolution is double-edged. He is sowing conflict among the President’s allies in the CA and the President, pitting one against the other. Either way, he wins. Some people…they are more clever than the devil,” he said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, also a member of the CA, said Alejano should first consult his lawyers before making any move.
“There could be a problem of jurisdiction, not to mention the time honored tradition of inter-chamber courtesy being observed by the bicameral body,” Lacson said.
The senator pointed out that the appointments body is an independent constitutional body that is distinct from the lower house and the Senate.
“I can understand the eagerness of Cong. Alejano considering that the lobby money insinuation came from the President who apparently tops the hate list of the Magdalo group,” Lacson added.
Sato, who was among those who grilled Lopez at the CA, said there were two major issues Lopez failed to address.
She said Lopez admitted to issuances that “had no basis in law,” including prohibiting mining in all watersheds, changing mining audit standards and imposing additional financial obligations on the mineral ore exports of mining firms whether they were suspended or not.
“Her tendency to use her prerogative over established rules and regulation and ignore due process is an utter disregard for the rule of law and shows a lack of understanding of the function and role of the Executive Department,” Sato said.
The second issue, she said, was Lopez’s hiring of 55 consultants and officials, designating unqualified personnel to managerial and supervisory positions and leaving 50 career personnel in floating status.
“Both the Civil Service Commission and the Commission on Audit have issued adverse rulings on this matter. The decision of Ms. Lopez to manage the Department in this way has brought on demoralization and undermined professionalism in the DENR bureaucracy,” the lawmaker said.
On Sunday, Malacañang said the President’s remarks on the rejection of Lopez highlights the existence of certain vested interests in the appointment of officials but does not in any way diminish the integrity of the CA.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that the President respect the CA.
“The fact that he did not interfere during the confirmation process of the erstwhile DENR Secretary shows his deference to the body,” he said in a statement.
“Some members of the Commission have decided according to principle and conscience and even came out to explain their votes,” he added.
JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA WITH PNA