Lopez and Yasay

We have two members of the Cabinet—one deserving and another definitely not—who may have to abandon their positions once the powerful Commission on Appointments does not confirm them.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina “Gina” Lopez is a former drug addict and a disciple of the Ananda Marga. The heiress to the Lopez clan faces the CA today.

Lopez, a self-proclaimed environmentalist and a staunch anti-mining advocate, canceled the permits of 23 mining firms, and suspended five others for alleged violation of environmental laws. She did this without due process with a clear bias and prejudice against mining concerns.

She did not at all consider the 1.2 million people directly working in mines and related jobs, as well as communities that depend on mining income.

She also canceled 75 mineral production sharing agreements, violating the sanctity of contracts.

And yet, she granted an environmental compliance certificate to the geothermal company First Philippine Holdings, which is owned by her family. Let’s not forget that the Lopez-owned company responsible for the Batangas-Manila pipeline had a leak that rendered the West Tower condominium building uninhabitable. Residents of Bangkal, Makati suffered from the poisonous gas fumes.

Lopez also went on record, in a speech before a Makati Rotary Club, that P50-million bribes have been given to each member of the commission by mining companies just so they would reject her appointment.

That accusation alone cast a doubt on the entire commission. This virtually ended her career as DENR head. Her pronouncement was clearly stupid, a revelation of her bias against those who are not as rich as she is. They call it “matapobre” in Spanish.

From the moment President Duterte appointed Lopez, I knew it was a big mistake. I am glad I have been proven right.

The President himself said he would let go of Lopez if she is rejected by the CA. Recall that in December 201 6, Lopez was already bypassed by the CA. She even dared the commission to let the chips fall where they may. I am sure she will get her wish today.

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And then we have Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay being questioned on his citizenship. This may affect his position at the DFA. It would be most unfortunate for him and the foreign service if he gets rejected, or if he gets indicted for perjury. He had claimed under oath that he was never an American citizen. And then records showed he had lied.

I think Yasay’s appointment is excellent. He has thus far performed well, especially in connection with the South China Sea dispute with China.

For Senator Ping Lacson, chairman of the CA committee on foreign affairs, Yasay’s biggest problem was not being rejected, but his being charged with perjury after he denied his US citizenship. Embassy documents showed he formally renounced his US citizenship on June 28, 2016—just two days before President Duterte appointed him to the Cabinet. Yasay’s case is scheduled on March 8 because he is out of the country.

Yasay also told the committee that he had applied for naturalization, but never legally acquired US citizenship. Still, even after he had supposedly given up his US citizenship in 1993, he failed to reacquire his Filipino citizenship, making his position as DFA head and his previous seven-year stint at the Securities and Exchange Commission, first as commissioner and then chairman, questionable. If Yasay did not reacquire Filipino citizenship, then that would make him stateless. And if Yasay did not reacquire Filipino citizenship and had served as SEC chair, Yasay could even face a complaint of usurpation of public function.

All I can say is “sayang.”

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Given all this attention to Cabinet secretaries, I think Mr. Duterte should also evaluate others in his official family—whether or not they are performing well.

I especially have two in mind: Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

These two said that out of five statements of the President, just two can be taken seriously while the rest are foolishness. My gulay, what kind of spokesmen are these? They are the President’s worst enemies!

I also believe that Secretaries Judy Taguiwalo of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Rafael Mariano of the Department of Agrarian Reform and Liza Maza of the National Anti-Poverty Commission must quit with the termination of the peace negotiations between the government and the communist rebels.

Self-respect and delicadeza are foremost considerations. Their appointment was made as a confidence-building measure between the government and the communists in the context of the negotiations.

There are calls to resume the talks, but right now these Cabinet members must resign.

There have been no less than 32 encounters between government forces and the communist insurgents since the unilateral ceasefire of government was lifted, which makes the resumption of peace talks almost impossible.

While President Duterte may not consider it necessary for the communist members of the Cabinet to resign, their continued presence in their respective positions has made them useless.

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The Henry Sy-owned Banco de Oro has given Alphaland a credit facility of P55 billion for a seven-year financing of Alphaland Corp.

International businessman Roberto Ongpin, Alphaland chair, said the loan will be used to refinance debts and bankroll a new international airport, some 23 nautical miles from Alphaland’s signature project the Balesin Island Club. It will also help develop a leisure estate in Baguio for the construction of some 300 mountain lodges.

Ongpin said he is glad that he’s now in partnership with the country’s biggest lender.

Topics: Emil Jurado , Regina “Gina” Lopez , Perfecto Yasay , Department of Environment and Natural Resources , Department of Foreign Affairs , Banco de Oro , Alphaland Corp.
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