SEVERAL members of the Commission on Appointments took offense with President Rodrigo Duterte’s remark on “money talks” in the rejection of Regina Lopez as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“It is a sweeping assault not only on the integrity of the members of the Commission on Appointments [CA] who voted for rejection but the CA itself, being an independent constitutional body, Senator Panfilo Lacson said.
Another CA member from the House contingent, Rep. Julieta Cortuna cried foul over insinuation that business interest swated the bicameral panel in voting against Lopez. It was never enough that Lopez had “passion for the job,” Cortuna said.
“Leadership for me is a comprehensive job that needs technical expertise and above all there are existing laws that no one should be above of,” said Cortuna of A Teacher party-list.
Lacson, an ally of the President, said he thinks the President’s claim is not only unfortunate but inappropriate and uncalled for.
While I am sure the president’s “lobby money talks” comment does not apply to me, Lacson said he had already cited his reasons for rejecting Lopez.
“I am almost sure, those members who are his staunchest allies in both houses of Congress, will not cast their votes without first seeking his guidance. Just to be clear, I am not referring to myself in this regard.
Lacson said the commission rejected Lopez because she was not qualified for the job.
Surigao de Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers for his part said Lopez and her advisers did her in. “The policies she implemented seemed not well thought of,” Barbers said.
Worse, Lacson said, Lopez admittedly arrogated unto herself the authority that is not prescribed under the existing laws of the land.
“That makes her potentially dangerous as a department head. Further, she has authoritarian tendencies,” Lacson said.
“On a personal note, I hate being intimidated and pressured in the performance of my duties as a legislator and member of the CA,” he added.
The senator said Lopez’s supporters can speculate all they want why he voted to reject her confirmation but “these are my reasons and nothing more.”
Lacson said the confirmation of a presidential appointee always follows two basic criteria: Fitness and qualification. Passion and enthusiasm do not automatically translate to these, he said.
Rep. Gus Tambunting of Parañaque City said that the rejection by CA “affirms that mining is a crucial issue that needs a closer look by government and the people.”
While it is important to protect the environment, Tambunting said, “we need a chief regulator who sees all angles and is ready to be flexible while being firm.”
For his part Rep. Rodolfo Albano III of Isabela accused Lopez of “mounting an intense media campaign,” pointing out that “she is a member of a highly powerful media and business family.”
He said this was the reason why the CA decided to discuss her case in an executive session to allow a free and uninhibited exchange of opinions and in order to make a fair decision.
“Where playing to the crowd can disrupt the orderly flow of the proceedings, it was only prudent for the commission to adopt those rules,” he said.