THE Commission on Appointments took all of three minutes Wednesday to confirm the nomination of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, but President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointments to the Health and Social Welfare departments continued to encounter rough sailing.
“I now have the distinction or the privilege of presiding over the shortest confirmation hearing of a Cabinet secretary,” said Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the CA’s committee on foreign affairs.
At the start of the confirmation hearing at 9 a.m., Rep. Rodolfo Albano moved in favor of Cayetano’s nomination.
As no objection was raised, Lacson declared Cayetano the new DFA secretary to succeed Perfecto Yasay Jr., who was rejected over questions about his citizenship.
Cayetano’s confirmation came a week after Duterte appointed him to the DFA on May 10, a day after the expiration of the one-year ban to appoint losing candidates. Cayetano was the defeated running mate of Duterte in the May 2016 elections.
During the plenary, the CA gave its consent to Cayetano’s confirmation.
The Palace welcomed Cayetano’s swift confirmation, saying he would be a welcome addition to the Cabinet.
Interviewed after his comfirmation, Cayetano said he supports the initiative of the President to pave the way for other countries such as Turkey and Mongolia to be part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“Of course, we will support any of his initiatives. But, as he said, he will have to consult with other member states,” Cayetano said.
He said the willingness of President Duterte to allow Turkey and Mongolia to become members of the regional bloc was premised on the idea that small nations can do better by working together.
He said the President was just “opening the door” when he met with leaders of Turkey and Mongolia on the sidelines of the recently concluded Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.
As Foreign Affairs secretary, Cayetano said he would continue to defend the President, but now in “more diplomatic language.”
“Definitely, the conversion from politician to diplomat or from public servant in general to statesman has to be there... I will continue to speak for the President should the President order me to do so,” he said.
The CA’s committee on labor, employment and social welfare, meanwhile, canceled the hearing for Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo “for lack of time,” the second time it has done so. Taguiwalo, one of three leftists appointed to the Cabinet and a victim of torture during martial law, described the delay as “a form of torture.”
“This is a form of torture that I am being subjected to by the CA and its members. I am very willing to submit to their question[s] and answer all of them,” Taguiwalo said in a statement.
“I hope the esteemed members of the CA also realize that postponing or delaying my confirmation hearing has a negative impact in one way or another on the DSWD and how it delivers its programs and services to the public. We are all placed in limbo--not just myself. It is for all these reasons that I feel such deep dismay and disappointment,” she added.
Taguiwalo was supposed to face CA members for the second time at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, but the hearing was rescheduled for next week.
Thr first confirmation hearing on May 3 became controversial after Senator Vicente Sotto III made a disparaging remark about single mothers like Taguiwalo.
Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial also met rough sailing before the CA’s committee on health, which suspended her confirmation hearing, after Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque accused her of being incompetent, lying to Congress and wasting government resources.
Roque cited Ubial’s declaration that the Philippines was Zika-free, when it was not, and for saying that the virus came from abroad, when it was actually spread locally.
Roque also accused Ubial of trying to stop the implementation of the dengue vaccine, a charge Ubial denied.
Roque also questioned Ubial’s earlier plan to give condoms to high school students to prevent AIDS instead of distributing them to the gay community.
He also accused Ubial of turning a blind eye to anomalies in PhilHealth.
In answering the accusations, Ubial became emotional, saying she had earned some enemies because of her “strict approach to governance.”
“I rose from the ranks because my superiors have consistently and constantly recognized my commitment, dedication and quest for openly fighting corruption. Along the way, i have gained the respect and approbation of my clients, peers and bosses. But certainly, I have gained a lot of detractors also,” she said.
She vowed to implement the President’s orders to fight illegal drugs and corruption.
ACTS OFW party-list Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III and Restituto Mendoza also planned to oppose Ubial’s appointment.
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