Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Saturday joined other legislators in saying that Regina Lopez had no one to blame but herself for her failure to obtain confirmation from the Commission on Appointments. Cayetano said that her illegal actions on mining companies cost her job.
“I will always decide on what is right and not what is popular. I’m not surprised to see so much support and so much opposition to the voting of the CA regarding DENR Secretary Nominee Gina Lopez. I thank those who are open-minded and asking why? I’m not surprised that Gina and her group will go so low as to cast aspersions on why I voted the way I did and even accuse me of being in the pockets of the mining industry,” said Cayetano in his official Facebook account.
Cayetano went with other CA members in taking offense with criticisms that business interest swayed the bicameral panel in its decision to reject Lopez for the DENR post.
CA members such as Senator Panfilo Lacson, congressmen Julieta Cortuna of A Teacher, Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte, Gus Tambunting of Parañaque and Rodolfo Albano III of Isabela took turns denouncing the defenders of the ousted secretary. In the words of Lacson, the insinuation about “lobby money” influencing the rejection of Lopez was a “sweeping assault on the integrity of the members of the Commission on Appointments but the CA itself being an independent constitutional body.”
Cayetano, who is in Geneva, Switzerland along with 15 other delegates from the Philippines to attend the Universal Periodic Review on Monday, said since the 2007 election campaign, his stand on responsible mining and the strictest, highest standards for industries that affect the environment have been consistent.
“At the time of the [CA] voting, I felt that for me to explain my vote at that time would be like rubbing salt in a wound, because I would have to enumerate all the reasons why she is not fit to be DENR secretary. I felt it would be cruel to reject then put her down. Yet she now singles me out when a vast majority of the CA voted to reject [after giving her a year to prove herself] her appointment,” he added.
“I want to clarify that I gave Ms. Lopez enough chances to dispel fears that she would not observe the legal process in regulating the mining industry. I supported her in closing down mining sites that were not compliant with the highest standards. Moreover, illegal mining and logging continue to proliferate,while other sectors that need both strict regulation continue to destroy the environment,” Cayetano said.
“Unfortunately, the Secretary was adamant in defending her illegal actions. If she had carried on with her mindset, it would have embarrassed the Duterte administration sooner or later. She would have placed the administration in a predicament that would be hard to defend.”
Lopez’s passion as an advocate for the environment must be respected, Cayetano said, but she “fails to understand that she cannot arrogate unto herself Constitutional powers reserved exclusively for Congress.”
Cayetano said a number of government officials have invoked good intentions when they violated anti-graft and corruption laws, and President Rodrigo Duterte was left with no choice but to terminate them.
“Ms. Lopez’s recent acts already bordered along these lines. Going by her unwillingness to comply with institutional processes, she is not fit to head the DENR. She would have embarrassed the President in no time,” he said.
Lopez was the second Cabinet official under the present administration who was rejected by the commission. The first was former Foreign Affairs secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. whose citizenship was put in question.
Senators belong to the Liberal Party led by Franklin Drilon voted in favor of Lopez’s confirmation.
Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao, who chairs the CA’s committee on environment and natural resources, was the one who read the recommendation to reject Lopez’s appointment, which was later adopted on the floor.
Senators Vicente Sotto III, Francis Pangilinan, Joel Villanueva, Loren Legarda and Joseph Victor Ejercito said they voted in favor of Lopez’ confirmation.
A few weeks following her appointment as DENR secretary, Lopez ordered the closure of several mining firms across the country based on audit findings that they failed to comply with regulations under the 1995 Philippine Mining Act.
The Chamber of Mines said the DENR secretary had shown herself unfit and unqualified to be the government’s lead regulator in natural resource development.
Among the reasons why the group opposed Lopez’s confirmation: Lopez does not know the law; she cannot balance her functions as secretary of DENR and her bias against mining leaves her unable to appreciate the mechanics of the Mining Act, where rehabilitation is an indispensable requirement; her actions expose the Philippine government to massive financial liability from international arbitration; and she is fast and loose with government funds.