LAWMAKERS and mining company executives on Sunday vowed to block the confirmation of Environment Secretary Regina Lopez before the Commission on Appointments, citing her “mental incapacity” and what they said was her use of illegal drugs when she was still a minor.
Lopez has come under intense fire since she ordered the closure of 75 mining companies for allegedly violating environmental laws, and is the target of a lobbying effort to oust her from the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Sources in the mining industry said Lopez was a drug dependent at a young age, and was confined twice in St. Luke’s Medical Center in Global City for “traumatic brain injury and stage 4 brain cancer.”
“Lopez was confined first on Nov. 4, 2012 under brain surgeon Dr. Nick Cruz for traumatic brain injury. She paid hospital bills amounting to P87,000,” said one of the sources, who requested anonymity.
“Second, on April 11, 2016, she was again admitted for ‘undisclosed reasons’ under another brain surgeon, Dr. Samuel Ang. She paid P70,000 in hospital bills,” the source told the Manila Standard.
“We question her mental capacity to head an agency because we believe these explain her unilateral decisions and why she passes judgment without observing due process,” the source said.
“She knew she is dying and thus is in a hurry to leave a legacy even if [it is] at the expense of the mining industry, the government and the economy.”
Supreme Court documents show that on July 4, 1974, Regina Paz Lopez was voluntarily submitted by her mother, Conchita, to the Court for treatment and rehabilitation for drug dependency.
The younger Lopez was committed to the Dare Foundation Inc., a duly accredited rehabilitation center, on the same date. But on Sept. 23, 1974, Lopez escaped from the drug rehabilitation center, after the Court ordered expert psychiatrists to examine her to determine whether she was still drug dependent or suffering from a personality disorder.
In the same year, Lopez and her friends in the Ananda Marga sect filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus against her mother and the Dare Foundation, a petition that was thrown out a year later when Lopez reached the age of majority.
Officers of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines—Artemio Disini, Nelia Halcon and Ronald Recidoro—filed an opposition to the confirmation of Lopez before the CA committee on environment and natural resources on Feb. 10, 2017.
In their letter, they said Lopez’s recent actions show an “undeniable bias” against and antagonism towards large-scale mining, “rendering her unfit and incapable of a responsible, fair, just and balanced implementation of the Constitution, the Philippine Mining Act and related laws and regulations, and of upholding personal interest and advocacies over public interest.”
The complainants said Lopez had shortcut legal and administrative processes, disregarded due process and vested rights, and even ignored the sanctity of contracts between the government and its mining contractors.
“Lopez is grossly unfit and does not have the administrative experience and competence to lead the DENR. Lopez has a poor track record in leading and managing environment and eco-tourism projects,” the complainants said.
They said Lopez attended Assumption College and Newton College of the Sacred Heart in Boston, “apparently without earning any degrees.”
However, they said, she is supposed to have a master’s degree in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management and a doctorate degree in Humanities (Honoris Causa) from the Ateneo de Naga University.
“Lopez spent 20 years as a yoga missionary in Europe, India and Africa, returning to the Philippines only in the late 1990s. Little is known about Lopez before she sat as the managing director of the ABS-CBN Foundation. Lopez is most recognized only as an active spearhead of the foundation’s core projects, Kapit Bisig para sa Ilog Pasig, Bayan ni Juan and Bantay Kalikasan. Lopez apparently has no experience in leading and managing in an executive capacity in any organization other than the foundation,” the complainants told the CA.
The complainants said Lopez’s appointment as DENR secretary brought to fore the key issues of competence and conflict of interest.
“She is clearly inexperienced and incompetent to head and manage a key executive department, especially one as complex as the DENR. More importantly, the Lopez family’s many involvements in the energy sector highlight the glaring conflict of interest: How will she resolve the environmental catastrophes that involve her family’s energy business, such as the 2010 FPIC (First Philippine Industrial Corp.) pipeline leak that effectively ruined the West Tower Condominium?” they said.
On Monday, a mutli-stakeholder team of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) will hold its first meeting as part of a review of Lopez’s closure orders.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who co-chairs the MICC, said the team is essentially a “technical working group” that will review the operations of the mine sites affected by the DENR order.
“The technical working group, [is] the one going to do the reviews. That was part of the board resolution, so they’re going to implement it on Monday. They will decide what to do,” Dominguez said.
The multi-stakeholder review team will also include representatives from relevant government agencies and institutions.
Invitations were sent to the co-chairpersons of the MICC—Dominguez and Lopez, along with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Director General Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority.
Also invited to the meeting are Secretaries Ramon Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry, Ismael Sueno of the Interior and Local Government Benjamin Diokno of Budget and Management, Alfonso Cusi of Energy, Emmanuel Pinol of Agriculture, Rafael Mariano of Agrarian Reform, Vitaliano Aguirre III of Justice, Silvestre Bello III of Labor and Employment, and Judy Taguiwalo of Social Welfare and Development.
Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr., Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, Solicitor General Jose Calida, Undersecretary Ferdinand Cui Jr. of the Presidential Management Staff, Chairperson Leonor Oralde-Quintayo of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Executive Director Sandra Paredes of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines are also invited to the meeting.
Earlier, the MICC affirmed the primacy of both “procedural and substantive” due process in the final resolution of DENR’s series of actions on existing mineral production sharing agreements.
“As discussed during the MICC meeting last week, there is a need to observe due process. Due process is both substantive and procedural. Substantive due process means that there are valid grounds in law to support the cancellation. Procedural due process means the procedure for cancellation as provided for in the contract or under relevant laws were followed,” said Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin, who heads the department’s Legal Services Group.
MICC Resolution No. 6 said both the DENR and the Council “recognize the requirements of due process in the applicable mining laws, rules and regulations.”
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