THE confirmation hearings for Environment Secretary Regina Lopez and five other Cabinet officials have been moved to next week following a revamp in the Commission on Appointments as a result of the ouster of Liberal Party members from the majority in the Senate.
CA House contingent chairman San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo Zamora and his counterpart in the Senate, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III met on Tuesday and decided to cancel the hearings slated for this week and moved them next week.
Lopez’s confirmation hearing next week would be her last chance to stay on as Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary as Congress is set to go on a month-long Holy Week break on March 14.
Aside from Lopez, Zamora named the five others whose confirmations were left hanging: Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, Department of Education Secretary Leonor Matugas Briones, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial and Foreign Affairs Secretary PerfectoYasay.
“We cannot proceed with Lopez’s confirmation and the five equally contentious others because if there will be changes in the membership of the bicameral body, any decision we have to make now may be questioned and deemed illegal,” Zamora told the Manila Standard.
Of the six appointees of President Rodrigo Duterte, Lopez’s confirmation faces the stiffest opposition after she ordered the closure or suspension of 28 mining companies and canceled 75 mineral sharing production agreements, a move that would render some 20,000 workers jobless.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines has opposed Lopez’s confirmation.
Zamora said the Senate revamp would also affect the composition of the Senate contingent to the Commission on Appointments, with the Liberal Party senators losing their membership.
If there is a similar reorganization in the House, Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato, a Liberal, would be replaced, Zamora said.
A Teacher Rep. Julieta Cortuna, who represents the minority in the CA, might also lose her membership if the LP lawmakers become the dominant force in the minority.
But House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said his position as the minority leader would not be affected even if the entire 30-member LP bloc would turn minority.
Under the House rules, Suarez said, any House member who wishes to belong to the minority would need to seek acceptance from the minority leader.
So far, no LP member has expressed the intention to join Suarez’s minority.
Zamora said the confirmation hearings are likely to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.
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